Consumers can learn from car complaints used as case studies in the latest annual report of the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA), which clearly demonstrates what your rights are and when a dealer can refuse to pay your money back.
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Cancelling a transaction to buy a car
A consumer complained that a car he bought did not start the very day next day, due to a low voltage concern with the battery.
He contacted the dealer but did not receive any feedback. When he took it to a third party specialist for assessment, it was discovered that the brake disks and brake pads did not comply with prescribed specifications.
The dealer replaced the brakes, but a week later smoke and fumes came from the car. The consumer returned it to the dealer, where a fuel leak on the engine was discovered and repaired.
After more concerns, the consumer took the car to an authorised workshop for an assessment and sent the dealer a quotation for the repairs that had to be done, but the dealer only approved to pay for some repairs.
The problems with the car persisted and the consumer called in MIOSA’s help. He wanted the dealer to cancel the transaction and refund the deposit or replace the car.
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The MIOSA recommended that the dealer collect the car and cancel the sales transaction in terms of section 56 (3) of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The dealer adhered to the recommendation and cancelled the transaction. The consumer subsequently bought another vehicle from the same dealer.
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When it is your fault
Another consumer said a spanner warning light started flashing on his car’s information cluster during December 2021, and he only took the vehicle to the dealer by mid-January 2022, where it was reset and all faults were cleared.
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When he then took it for a test drive the warning lights were gone, but it was still struggling to change gears.
He took it back to the dealer, where tests revealed that the gearbox solenoid valve was stuck and needed to be replaced, but this had to be done by a gearbox specialist as the dealer does not handle transmission repairs. The dealer paid for the tests and an estimated quotation of R49 062.83 for repairs was provided.
In late January, the car stopped on the road and was towed to another dealership, which found that both the engine and gearbox needed to be replaced at a cost of R218 114.33, but the dealer refused to pay for this, because the gearbox oil cooler failed and caused the coolant water to mix with the gearbox oil.
This caused the gearbox to seize and due to the oil cooler failure, the engine overheated. When the gearbox was removed, it was discovered that the gearbox and engine were melted together and that all the coolant pipes were contaminated with oil. The engine, gearbox and coolant pipes needed to be replaced.
The gearbox specialist stated that the gearbox was faulty, there was a “TCM internal error” and that the gearshift solenoid was stuck. The dealer also confirmed that the car was driven for approximately 655 kilometres from 22 January 2022 until the failure occurred.
The MIOSA said the consumer continued to use the car with an apparent concern which caused the engine failure and had to pay for the damage himself.
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Inspect your car after repairs
Yet another consumer complained that after her car was towed to the repairing dealer for non-starting related issues and after she collected it, she discovered a dent at the back of the roof a few days later.
She approached the dealer, but her concerns were rejected as she only complained a month later and the work carried out was not related to the damage.
The MIOSA said the consumer should have inspected her vehicle on collection after the repairs were carried out and as such, the dealer could not be expected to be liable for the dent repairs as she could not prove when the damage occurred.
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If you bought a used car with problems
A consumer who bought a used 2010 model car in 2021 says it was problematic from the start, and she heard a noise emanating from the vehicle after driving it for a month.
After tests the dealer confirmed something was wrong and asked the consumer to bring it back a week later for repairs. However, it broke down the same day.
The dealer told the consumer to take it to any association approved workshop of her choice and get a quote for the repairs, but the extended warranty only covered a third of the cost. After the car was repaired it broke down again a week later.
Now it was leaking fluids, the air conditioning was not working and the gearbox was faulty as it failed to select second and third gears, while it also had no power.
In terms of Section 56 (2) of the CPA, all repair work has a six-month implied warranty and the consumer may return the goods to the supplier, without penalty and at the supplier’s risk and expense.
It further states that the supplier must, at the direction of the consumer, either repair or replace the failed, unsafe, or defective goods.
As the vehicle had previously been repaired and a new mechanical concern was discovered, the MIOSA recommended that the dealer cancel the transaction and refund the consumer.
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The case of the leaking caravan
After a consumer saw that a caravan he bought started leaking during a rainy day a month later, he took it back to the dealer and told him he did not want the caravan anymore as the extent of the water damage was unknown and the wooden panels would later start rotting.
After an assessment, the dealer confirmed the leaking and offered to buy back the caravan, but at a lower price than the consumer originally paid for it.
The dealer later retracted the offer and undertook to repair the caravan, but the consumer wanted to cancel the transaction in terms of section 56 (2) of the CPA.
The caravan failed within six months of purchase and did not meet the requirements as set out in terms of section 55 (2)(b) of the CPA and the MIOSA recommended that the sales transaction be cancelled.