Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Buying a pre-owned car? Remember these consumer rights

When you buy a pre-owned car you forfeit that new-car smell, but that should be the only thing you give up.

Consumer rights are not forfeited when buying a pre-owned car. Anybody who refuses to honour your rights as a consumer in this case is just plain wrong.

This is evident in two recent decisions handed down by the National Consumer Tribunal that showcased some of the rights consumers must be aware of when they think of buying a pre‑owned car, say Tracy-Lee Janse van Rensburg, director at Werksmans Attorneys, and Sabine Letellier, candidate attorney at Werksmans Attorneys, say.

The Tribunal was established in terms of the National Credit Act to adjudicate in complaints about credit and consumer matters. In the case of consumer complaints where businesses contravene provisions of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the Tribunal can grant interim relief, declare conduct to be prohibited, issue an interdict for prohibited conduct, confirm consent orders, condone non-compliance with its rules and procedures and make any other appropriate order required to give effect to a right as contemplated in the Act.

The Tribunal can impose an administrative fine, which cannot exceed 10% of the business’ annual turnover during the preceding financial year, or R1 000 000, whichever is the greatest. It is an independent adjudicative entity and hears all sides of a case before making a decision. A decision of the Tribunal has the same status as one made by the High Court of South Africa.

ALSO READ: Worried about your rights when buying a used car? Here’s what you need to know

Your right to have a pre-owned car repaired free of charge within six months

In one of the cases (Masilos v Mystic Cars) the Tribunal had to decide whether the consumers (Mr and Mrs Masilo) managed to prove, on a balance of probabilities, that Mystic Cars contravened certain sections of the CPA.

Just four months after they bought the car, the Masilos began experiencing mechanical issues with the car, which resulted in the car breaking down. An assessment of the vehicle by an authorised retail motor industry workshop revealed that the car required repairs amounting to just under R50 000.

The Masilos gave the quotation detailing the cost of the repairs to Mystic Cars, but it declined to pay for them, although it was willing to contribute R10 000 towards the repairs as a “goodwill gesture”.

However, the Masilos’ view was that the car was not of a standard of good quality as they expected and furthermore “was not reasonably suitable for the purposes for which it is generally intended” as the CPA requires.

Janse van Rensburg says in making its decision, the Tribunal referred to various sections of the CPA. “The first section considered was section 55 that in short demands that businesses provide goods that are reasonably suitable for the purpose they are generally intended for and are of good quality, in good working order and free of any defects.”

In addition, section 56 of the CPA also gives consumers an implied warranty of quality where they automatically get a warranty that goods comply with the standards set out in section 55.

“When goods fail to meet this standard, the consumer can return it within six months of delivery and the supplier is obligated to, at the choice of the consumer, either repair or replace the inadequate goods or refund the consumer in full,” Letellier says.

“This section further provides that when consumer elect to exercise their right to have the goods repaired, the supplier must replace the goods if any defect then occurs within three months after the repairs are done.”

The Tribunal found that sections 55 and 56 of the CPA applied in this case and that Mystic Cars contravened these section. The Masilos were therefore entitled to a refund of the purchase price they paid.

ALSO READ: Buying a car? Keep this in mind

When the car dealer does not tell you the car was involved in an accident

In another case (Ramangwa v Pro-Quick & Another), Lucas Ramangwa alleged that Pro-Quick sold him a car that was involved in a major collision but failed to inform him.

Within two months after he bought the car, Ramangwa experienced problems with it and took it back to Pro‑Quick for repairs. Despite the repairs, the problems persisted and Ramangwa took the car to another workshop for repairs and requested a refund of the costs of the repair from Pro‑Quick, Janse van Rensburg says.

However, Pro‑Quick refused to refund the costs of the repairs. At the Tribunal, Ramangwa submitted that Pro-Quick sold him the car while it was aware that the car was involved in a collision previously but failed to disclose this information to Ramangwa at the time he bought it, Letellier says.

Ramangwa presented evidence indicating that the car suffered damage in the accident and was inadequately repaired. Due to the allegedly undisclosed damage, Ramangwa submitted that the value of the car was drastically diminished.

Janse van Rensburg says in addition to considering the provisions of section 55 of the CPA, the Tribunal also considered section 25(1) that states that someone who supplies goods that were “reconditioned, rebuilt or remade” must apply a conspicuous notice to the goods stating that the goods were reconditioned, rebuilt or remade, whatever the case may be.

“A supplier may not misrepresent a material fact to a consumer when marketing goods. It is a misrepresentation if a supplier omits “to correct an apparent misapprehension” of the consumer relating to a particular standard, quality, grade, style or model or that they are new, unused, reconditioned or reclaimed when they are not.”

The Tribunal found that Pro-Quick contravened these sections of the CPA and as a consequence, found that Ramangwa was financially prejudiced.

“Consumers must therefore take note that, according to the provisions of the CPA, they have certain rights when they buy a pre-owned car. These rights include the right to receive a vehicle of good quality, in working order, free of any defects and to be clearly informed if it was rebuilt or reconditioned in any manner or form whatsoever,” Janse van Rensburg says.

Read more on these topics

Consumer protection Act Consumer Rights

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