JOHANNESBURG - The days of vehicle manufacturers threatening to void your warranty if you use an independent service centre or repair shop will soon be a thing of the past.

This is because the Competition Commission of South Africa is currently putting the final touches on a historic new Code of Conduct for the South African automotive industry.

Here is how the code will benefit you, as a car owner:

You choose where to service or repair your vehicle. With the new code, you’ll have the right to choose where you can service or repair your vehicle without voiding your warranty.

The latest draft of the code states that “independent service providers can undertake in-warranty service and maintenance work and in-warranty motor-body repairs”.

The code adds that this will widen “the pool of approved service providers who can undertake in-warranty service and maintenance work, in-warranty mechanical repairs, and in-warranty motor-body repairs".

With there being an estimated 8000 independent service workshops in South Africa this will give you ample choice and more competitive pricing.

The code also stipulates that car owners will also be protected by the Consumer Protection Act if anything goes wrong. With embedded motor or service plans, many vehicle manufacturers lock you into using their original parts, which typically are costed at a premium.

The vehicle manufacturers often say that this ensures your car will always have "quality parts" specifically geared towards its type and brand. But this argument doesn’t hold water any more as there is a wide availability of high-quality, alternative parts in South Africa from the likes of Autoboys and other players in the market.

The Competition Commission has recognised this as a fact in the industry. Subsequently, its draft code has said that there will be “no unfair restrictions on the sale or distribution of original spare parts; allowing greater consumer choice in choosing suitable spare parts for repairs and maintenance of their motor vehicles”.

It’s not just the end-consumer who will have more choice, but insurance companies as well.

Finally, but most importantly, the code seeks to drive the transformation of the industry by levelling the playing field. It will do this by pushing for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to “promote the entry of historically disadvantaged individuals into an OEM’s network of service and maintenance service providers". For instance, OEMs will be expected to include black-owned providers in their networks through subsidisation of capital, facilities, tools, equipment and training required to meet their standards.

In turn, insurers will be tasked with broadening the allocation of repair work to black-owned and black-operated firms.

As you can see, the code has a wide-ranging impact for the industry. But at its heart, it seeks to empower you the consumer by making the industry more open, transparent and inclusive.

Filum Ho is the chief executive of auto parts and glass specialists Autoboys.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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