Johannesburg - When our gate motor recently breathed its last, I went to a security shop in search of a replacement.

In passing, while paying, I said to the teller: “It obviously comes with a six-month warranty.”

“No, it doesn’t,” he told me brusquely. “We don’t provide any warranties on electrical goods.”

Not in the mood to argue about the CPA with the rude teller, I took it home, hoping for the best and vowed not to return. It did what it needed to do but I wondered – is there such an exemption?

Then Mehboob Yusuf from Durban contacted me about an issue he had with car spares.

“I hope you can be my saviour as I have problems that have been unresolved since last year.

CASE 1

“In mid-November 2014, I spoke to a parts salesman at Grand Central Motors in Midrand regarding a Fiat Stilo computer box which fits on the engine. The salesman forwarded me a quotation for a ‘box computer’ for the sum of R5873.86.

“I queried with him if the body computer fits on the engine and he told me that was how the system identifies it and it was the part I wanted…

“By the fifth day when I hadn’t received any feedback, I contacted him, but was told it would take an additional two weeks as (there had been a delay).

“On December 15, 2014 I went personally to Midrand from Durban to see the manager about the delay, but he was away. The part only got to Fiat Midrand on December 30, 2014 and my brother had to fetch it and arrange for it to be sent to me.

“On December 31, 2014 I received the part but Durban Fuel Injection which was repairing my vehicle was closed. I called the salesman and told him I was concerned about the part being wrong. He told me I could send it back. It was indeed the wrong part, but Grand Central Motors refused to refund me.

CASE 2

“On 9 January 2015 I ordered an engine component unit from NMI Durban South Motors for R9438.05. They got me the part within three days. Durban Fuel Injection installed it and they found that it was defective.

“They informed NMI DSM who sent their technician to inspect it and he also found that it was defective. Unfortunately, they refused to take it back. They insisted that any electrical part purchased could not be returned.

“I’ve taken the issues to the motoring ombudsman but they are still apparently investigating it. I paid Durban Fuel Injection R2200 for diagnosing and all work carried out.

“Please Georgie, I am desperate to get closure on this matter.”

CPA law trumps retailers’ policies

So I called a trusted mechanic friend of mine who works in the south of Johannesburg.

“Don’t quote me, but no company will give you a guarantee on an electrical component,” he said.

“If they aren’t installing it themselves or it’s being done by an approved agent, they have no control over the workmanship. Cars these days are complex and you can cause a lot of damage if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

It sounded like a fair point, but I wasn’t aware of any such exemption and why should there be if a competent person is doing the installation?

The key point is, under the Consumer Protection Act, there is an implied, automatic six-month warranty on quality on everything sold in South Africa.

Yusuf reported the issue within days to NMI Durban South Motors and despite the fact it was fitted by a non-franchised dealership, Durban Fuel Injection is a professional, competent outfit.

So I turned to legal opinion on the matter because R10 000 is a lot of money to be spending on a component that doesn’t come with a warranty.

A CPA expert, attorney Luke Mouyis from Mouyis Cohen Incorporated in Sandton, confirmed there’s absolutely no such exemption in the act. And while it might be common practice in the industry, the built-in six-month warranty has to be honoured.

As Alecia Pienaar of Durban Fuel Injection rightly pointed out in a firmly worded response to Durban South Motors: “It’s a sad day in the automotive industry when manufacturers have to hide poor quality or defects behind allegations of poor fitment practices or incompetent installation procedures.” Well said.

‘ELECTRICAL ITEMS ARE NOT RETURNABLE’

Grand Central Motors in Midrand responded to my query as follows: “Thank you for affording us the opportunity to respond on this matter. I would like to refer to my mail response to Mr Yusuf on 8 January 2015, which explains what you are asking for:

“Dear Mr Yusuf,

Thank you for escalating this matter. I have reviewed your request for a refund of the body computer and can reply as follows:

“You had received two separate estimates on 14 November 2014 and 17 November 2014. On both of these estimates, it was clearly indicated that it was for a body computer. The estimates both reflect that electrical items are not returnable.

“In an e-mail from yourself to Mr Dee Scobie, you approved that he proceed and order this part, which he did. The invoice to you on 30 December 2014 also clearly indicated ‘body computer’ and that electrical parts are non-returnable. You then paid for this part, thereby accepting that the order was correct.

“At no point in time did Fiat Alfa Romeo Midrand have sight of this vehicle nor did they conduct any diagnosis on the vehicle which would require a system diagnosis that would accurately record the faulty component. This part was ordered by yourself telephonically with your own private diagnosis.

“The response given to you by our Mr Dean Shekleton on 6 January 2015 stands. Fiat Alfa Romeo Midrand accepts no responsibility or liability of any wrong doing.

“A refund for this electrical component will not be considered. I do however wish to advise you that should you not find satisfaction in this outcome, you may direct you matter to the Motor Industry Ombudsman, who is the appointed dispute resolution agent for the motor industry with regards to the Consumer Protection Act. Please visit www.miosa.co.za in order to follow their required procedure of lodging a complaint.

Regards

Robbie Matticks

Franchise Executive”

WISE UP - HERE’S HOW

Whatever the invoice might state, Yusuf is nevertheless entitled to reasonable return, with the option of a replacement, return or refund – especially as he contacted them five days after the fact. It’s the law. Plus, there’s the matter of the salesman giving him the (verbal) assurance that he could return it if it wasn’t correct. Rather be 100 percent sure about your order. And when in doubt, insist on getting it in writing.

Right of return: Without flogging the proverbial dead horse – the Consumer Protection Act’s implied warranty gives consumers the right to receive goods that are reasonably fit for their intended purpose; are of good quality, free of defects and in good working order; and are durable and usable for a reasonable time.

If not… Consumers have six months to return the goods, get a replacement, a repair or a refund. But it doesn’t include change-of-heart items. And whatever “terms and conditions” might be printed on the invoice, it’s the law of the land.

Up against a brick wall: If the dealership is not honouring the six-month warranty, take your problem to the source: the manufacturer. They are obliged, by law, to provide the warranty on their spares. If they don’t, it amounts to unfair practice. Call them out for it.

Worth the fight? Get an approved dealer to install it in the first place because if a component fails, you really want back-up and no questions. You might save money by getting someone else to do the work, but what good is that when they can’t guarantee the work? - The Star

Georgina Crouth is a consumer watchdog with serious bite. Write to her at [email protected]

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