Consumer help: motor vehicles and complaints
Here’s a summary of the most important Sections of the Consumer Protection Act.
Motor vehicle consumer complaints
THE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT 68 OF 2008
This is a summary of the most prominent aspects of the Act and the influence on business environment and especially the motor vehicle industry.
It is important to not to become emotional or aggressive if you encounter a problem with any product as this may hamper your logical negotiations with the other party, especially in transaction where a lot of money is involved, it will be much easier to exchange a toaster than a motor vehicle.
Most people will rather get a third party such as an mediator or lawyer to assist with the negotiations as it is much less stressful to have someone else attending to the dispute.
South Africans are not a litigious society such as the European countries and the USA but the CPA will empower the consumers to understand their rights and equip them with the means to enforce their consumer rights.
THE CORE CONCEPT OF THE ACT
The core concept of the ACT is very clear on the fact that consumers must receive all relevant information pertaining to the services or goods and be informed on all aspects of the product to allow them to make an informed decision when purchasing goods or services.
MAIN PURPOSE OF THE ACT
Promote fair business practices.
- To reduce and disadvantages when accessing services and goods.
- To improve consumer awareness and encourage responsible and informed consumerism.
- To protect consumers from fraudulent conduct and unfair, unjust and improper trade practices.
CONSEQUENCES OF NON-COMPLIANCE
- The Act allows onerous public liability risks and this extends from the Manufacturer to the Supplier, including the importers.
- The Act also allows for administrative fines of up to one million rand or 10% of the respondent’s annual turnover in the preceding financial year.
IMPORTANT LEGAL SHIFTS
Prior to the promulgation of the CPA, it was very difficult for consumers to proof negligence as the burden of proof was with the consumer and it was difficult to sue Dealers/Suppliers.
- The CPA has shifted the burden of proof to the Supplier who now has to proof that they were not negligent.
- The standard of proof is also much easier as it is based on the balance of probability.
- A crucial legal shift was the change in the parole evidence rule. This rule did not allow any external evidence if the parties were committed to written and signed agreements, this rule was relaxed and allows consumers to make use of external evidence such as third party reports and or engineer/specialist reports,
This is a huge risk for the suppliers and consumers will tend to litigate much easier and cheaper than previously as the Act allows for mediation and conciliation processes which is also much quicker and cheaper than litigation.
The CPA also allows consumers to claim and sue suppliers for damages, including consequential damages, or for any injuries as a result of the use of their products, this claim is irrespective of any negligence on the part of the supplier.
MOST IMPORTANT CLAUSES IN THE ACT
Sec 15 Pre-Authorisation of repair or maintenance service
You take your vehicle to the dealer for an oil change, when collecting the vehicle they informed you that they changed your brake pads and discs and you have to pay an additional cost of the work done.
The Act is clear service providers must not charge for goods unless the provider has given an estimate and the consumer agreed to it. The consumer may refuse to pay for unapproved work done.
Sec 67 Return of parts and material
Your car is out of warranty and you took it for a service, you accept the quote and you doubt if all the parts was replaced as specified on the quotation.
The Act states that the supplier must keep all your parts in a reasonably clean container and they must return it to you, unless it is a warranty or insurance claim.
Sec 54 Right to demand quality service.
The supplier serviced your car and on your arrival they informed you that the work will take an extra two days.
They should have informed you timely of any delays in the execution of the service.
When you collect you vehicle you get a car that is full of oily fingerprints and there is a scratch on the fender, caused by the mechanic’s tools.
The dealership is responsible to remedy the damages or to refund you a fair portion of the price paid.
Sec 55 Right to safe and good quality goods
Supplied goods must be able do what they are designed for
- Be of good quality and free of defects and in working order
- Be durable and useable for a reasonable time period
- Comply with the applicable standards or public regulations
It is irrelevant whether the defect was obvious or hidden or whether the consumer should have detected it before delivery.
Goods bought at an auction are excluded from this section.
Sec 56 Implied warranty of quality
This section allows an unspoken condition that every product must carry a warranty of at least six months.
The consumer may return goods to the supplier if it does not comply with the requirements of this section.
The consumer may return the goods:
- Within six months
- Without paying a penalty fee.
- At the risk of the supplier
The consumer can decide if he wants the supplier to repair, replace or refund the product.
Sec 57 Warranty on repaired goods.
A service provider must guarantee reconditioned or new part installed during any repair or maintenance work for a period of three months.
Sec 61 Liability for damages
This section deals with the liability of all parties in the supply chain, from the manufacturer to the supplier.
Consumers can claim for liability in the following instances:
In case of death.
- Injury or illness of any person.
- Loss of or physical damage to movable or immovable property.
- Damage or harm, caused by not giving enough instructions or warnings.