OPINION | Will the Right to Repair campaign do more harm than good in SA?

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<i>Image: iStock</i>
<i>Image: iStock</i>

The Right To Repair rule allows motorists of new vehicles to have them serviced or repaired at any independent provider they choose.

The campaign is set to come into effect locally on 1 July 2021.

What this also means is that the customer cannot be 'locked' into warranty or service plans from the dealership when buying a new vehicle.

For more motoring stories, visit Wheels24.

Automotive dealerships - more than anyone else - will be dreading 1 July 2021.

The imminent activation of the Right To Repair campaign puts the remote control in the hand of the customer, enabling motorists of new vehicles to have them serviced or repaired at an independent provider of their choosing. Furthermore, dealerships cannot 'force' service or motor plans onto the customer, which is currently a non-negotiable term. Instead, it will be offered as an option.

So, if 'ABC Auto', for example, did a poor job or cut corners in repairing a new vehicle, the customer can take it to the automaker or original equipment manufacturer (OEM), still covered under the factory warranty, and they have to repair any existing or improper work. The liability will fall on the workshops to ensure the repair is done correctly.

In a nutshell, it wholly benefits the customer, while dealerships are the ones that end up with the shorter end of the stick.

The customer is in control

The general rule with all new vehicles is that the OEM fully covers duties like services or any mechanical issue up to a specific period. If a third party has tampered with components in any way that falls under warranty, it is immediately void and no longer the dealership's responsibility.

Mechanic fixing a tyre in a workshop

Also, most modern vehicles are packed with all kinds of technology that only the OEM has an excellent working knowledge of. A mechanic not familiar with the inner workings of a particular vehicle can cause all sorts of problems. Again, the customer has every right to visit and dealership and book it in for repairs.

Do you think the Right To Repair campaign will cause unwanted disturbances on the broader motoring community? Please email us, or share your thoughts in the comments section below.

While most aftermarket mechanical components are honed close to OEM specification, they aren't the real thing. Aftermarket ones are significantly cheaper compared to OEM's. If the budget is tight, the majority will fit the more affordable option to get the vehicle in working order again.

For example, if a consumer fits brake pads, a headlight, or a roof rack from an independent supplier and the engine fails, the warranty remains in place.

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"We are nevertheless confident that all of the aspects will increase competition and allow easier access to the market by independent service providers. This in itself is a major benefit to the consumer because more competition always leads to better prices, better quality and better service," says Gunther Schmitz, Chairman of Right to Repair South Africa (R2RSA).

Moving with the times

In Europe, the Right to Repair has been around for some time, and the general trend is that independent workshops improved the quality of their offering, and dealerships improved their pricing.

The idea of giving independent dealers a piece of the pie is great for the economy, but it is worth noting that customers who move between various repairers can run the risk of future issues. One might deem a component to be fitted in one way while the other uses a different method entirely - there is a risk to the consumer.

Facts considered, South Africa has been stuck in its ways for such a long time that R2R would probably take a while before it is fully implemented and its concept fully grasped. Also, the general consensus is if it's a new vehicle, it should go to the dealership while under warranty.

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