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Lemons, skedonks, skoro-skoro: What to do if you've bought a defective used vehicle

2020-06-22 10:54

Kaiel Grobler


Image: iStock

With the used-vehicle market booming under the global pandemic, South Africans have changed their car-buying patterns to what is more financially viable.

Autotrader has revealed that used-car searches have increased significantly since the national lockdown began in March, and not much as changed. The online car sales platform has also revealed that used cars are now between R10 000 and R40 000 cheaper than what they were two months ago.

They're better known as lemons, skedonks, or even skoro-skoro, and so many Wheels24 readers email us weekly about defective used vehicles they have purchased. 

We've asked legal experts LawForAll to share valuable advice regarding vehicle purchasing as well as what to do if you're the victim of an unscrupulous dealer or private seller.

LawForAll Adv Kaiel Grobler said: "Other than being the more pocket-friendly option, buying a used vehicle has other advantages as well. For starters, there is a wide variety of previously owned cars on the market, so you can pretty much find any make or model."

"Of course, as with most things in life, it's not all just smooth sailing. Buyers also need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of buying a second-hand car. Issues can range from mechanical difficulties and undisclosed damage to expired warranties and trouble finding replacement parts. So, it all comes down to doing thorough research and approaching a variety of sellers."


Image: iStock

We look at how the law is on your side if you feel as though you've been duped:

How can the law assist me if I am sold a defective vehicle?

LawForAll said: "Purchasing a second-hand car from a dealer means that the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) applies to your transaction and protects your rights. Essentially, the previously owned vehicle falls under what’s defined as "goods" in the CPA. So, you are protected against defects."

The CPA provides that all goods purchased must comply with the following requirements:

• Safe, of good quality, in good working order and free from any defects;
• Reasonably suitable for the purpose for which they are generally intended; and
• Will be usable and durable for a reasonable period of time, having regard to the use they would normally be put to.

Should the car not meet these requirements, you have the right to return it (within six months after the purchase) and can insist to:

• Have the car repaired;
• Have the car replaced; or
• Obtain a full refund of the purchase price.

Of course, if you were made aware of any defects and still purchased the car, the CPA provisions do not apply.

How to file a complaint with the car dealership

According to the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA) - the independent dispute resolution forum for the South African motor industry and its customers, these are the recommended steps:

1. The first step you take if you have a complaint is to contact your service or selling dealer, find out who the right person is to speak to and make an appointment to discuss the complaint with the designated person.

2. Be prepared. Before lodging a complaint, make sure that you understand all the elements of the original purchase agreement. This will include the sales agreement; warranty document and service plan if applicable. Make sure that your vehicle's service record is current and that the service schedule has been stamped by the servicing dealer.

3. Keep emotions in check. Remember, you are dealing with a person in their professional space. Approach the matter in a cool, calm and civilised way. Keep records of all discussions, intentions and promises.

4. Be assertive without being rude. If you are not happy with the way the complaint is being dealt with, insist on the service or selling dealer arranging for a manufacturer’s representative to review the complaint.

5. Make sure you keep a paper trail of your communication with the dealership, just to prove that you have lodged an official complaint and that no action on their part has been taken. This will strengthen your case.

6. Do not let up. In the unlikely event that you are still not happy with the way your complaint is being dealt with, contact the office of the Motor Industry Ombudsman (or another relevant Ombudsman).

There are many ways to contact MIOSA - you can complete an online form, call them, mail or even fax them.

Once received, your complaint will be forwarded under a covering letter to the dealer or manufacturer in question for their comment. If required, an MIO technician will be dispatched to carry out an inspection. Do note: any inspection will be for the complainant's account.

Upon receipt of all the relevant documentation, the case will be technically and legally assessed and a recommendation forwarded.

                                                                        Image: iStock

LawForAll said: "This means that they will investigate and evaluate complaints arising from the alleged contraventions of the law, particularly the CPA, and attempt to facilitate a settlement between the parties and where possible, provide a recommendation with regards to such settlement.

"The MIOSA will determine a dispute within 30 (thirty) business days from the date it has received all the necessary documentation/information to enable them to make an informed decision regarding the complaint.

"So, remember, buying a second-hand car in South Africa is all about doing thorough research, comparing prices and know what your legal rights are.

"LAW FOR ALL can help with legal advice and mediate these types of consumer disputes with dealers. If there is no resolution, they can help refer the matter to MIOSA or another Ombudsman. For added legal protection, have a look at LAW FOR ALL's Free Offer to Purchase a Vehicle Contract"


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