Tribunal ruling good news for second hand car buyers

Tribunal ruling good news for second hand car buyers
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The recent ruling by the National Consumer Tribunal against a Caledon Motor dealer who sold a poorly repaired, probably dangerous to drive, second-hand car to an unsuspecting buyer is an important point in the sale of defective vehicles.

Richard Green, national director of the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA), an association of the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), says even though the buyer received a certified guarantee when he bought the car, the Tribunal found that the certificate did not in fact link to the vehicle in question and contained no date, registration number, odometer reading or client name.

“This should have been an immediate warning to the buyer at the time of purchase and was a serious omission by the dealership in question.”

Green says SAMBRA has been campaigning for over two years now to see that cars that have been severely damaged and subsequently written off by Insurers never find themselves back onto a sales floor. They should be written off as scrap as they are beyond economical repair.

He says to the untrained eye these cars may look roadworthy, as was the case in Caledon, but hoist them up and take a closer look and you would be shocked at the quality of the repair job and the severity of the previous damage incurred. Green says the problem in South Africa is that there is no way of checking if that car has been written off previously in an accident and this makes it difficult for consumers to access if the apparently showroom-condition car they bought, is exactly what it claims to be? “We have repeatedly appealed to the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) to make this information available for consumers and accredited and reputable dealers alike,” says Green.

“If SAIA would just agree to making write off information available on a public register where the VIN number of the vehicle can be checked and the buyer can then be properly informed prior to making a used car purchase decision, these types of problems and the massive consequential damages they cause, could be avoided. The information is routinely forwarded to the South African Insurance Association (SAIA) from all insurance companies. SAIA then creates a Vehicle Salvage Data (VSD) system.

Green says this latest case is just another in a long line of problems. “The entire system, including the registration process, needs a shakeup so that consumers are not saddled with poorly repaired and structurally unsafe second-hand vehicles with Code 2 Registration licences. “How is it possible that, according to the Tribunal, a vehicle, ‘not suitable for its intended purpose; not of good quality, not in good working order and free of defects, and plainly not usable and durable for a reasonable time,’ finds its ways onto the dealership floor and is sold with a guaranteed no defects certificate? How does one obtain a roadworthy certificate or even insure such a vehicle?” says Green.

He says it is critical that only qualified personnel do a trade-in inspection. “The problem often arises when unqualified sales personnel manage the inspection and do not carry out any due diligence regarding service records, vehicle history etc. There have to be standardised checks and balances in place to protect both the dealer and the consumer.”

Green provides buyers with the following advice:

  • If you are buying a second-hand car online, ensure you get an accredited
    repairer or dealer to provide you with an independent assessment. A full list
    of accredited SAMBRA (South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association)
    members can be found on the RMI website. If possible never buy a used car
    without seeing it and physically inspecting it and, ideally, take it for a test
    drive.

    SAMBRA accredited members comply with strict standards and criteria to protect consumers.

  • If you are buying a car privately, ensure you also get an independent assessor to check out the car
  • Another useful tip is to review comments on the company’s website and see how people rate their service and quality of product
  • Never accept a car without a full service record and if you do receive a certificate, without all the necessary information regarding the car in question

“Until a solution can be found and this register is made available from SAIA, we
strongly suggest you get your second hand car checked out first by an accredited
SAMBRA repair shop to avoid any future problems. Any reputable dealer would have
no problem in allowing this,” says Green.

Find more articles like this including How to Buy a Second-hand car and other consumer-related news and advice. Visit SAMBRA’s Consumer Education page or listen now:

LISTEN: Call for transparency in car sales as patched up wrecks re-sold to unsuspecting buyers

Prepared for and on behalf of SAMBRA by Cathy Findley PR.