Second hand car dealerships came under the spotlight this week in Durban. Picture: Supplied

Durban - Used car dealers in Durban’s Umgeni Road were shocked and embarrassed as police handed out thousands of rand in fines for various transgressions.

Officials from the Department of Labour, SAPS, metro police, National Consumer Commission, Home Affairs and the office of the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA) pounced unannounced.

Three businesses were found now to be in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act while one did not have proper fire exits or equipment.

Desmond Pillay, the commission’s KZN deputy director for consumer complaints, said: “We go around often checking on the books of these businesses, the policies they follow and more importantly to see if they are complying with the Consumer Protection Act.

“For example, these dealerships should be displaying a price on every single vehicle for sale. And the ones that are not for sale should have a sign that reads ‘not for sale’,” he said.

Pillay added that businesses should also notify potential buyers about the history of a vehicle.

“It is the right of the consumer to know what issues the vehicle has, so if they experience any similar issues they are aware of it and can contact their dealer immediately,” he said.

According to MIOSA’s Ibrahim Adat, most car dealerships still use the “voetstoots” rule, in terms of which the consumer takes a vehicle as it is with defects, and once it is out of the yard it is not the problem of the dealership.

However, this is no longer applicable.

“We are here to ensure they are using the new policies and that they are fully compliant in terms of being registered with MIOSA. It is a legal requirement for these businesses and if they do not register even after educating them, we will take action,” he said.

Officials from the Department of Labour noticed that one dealership did not have adequate documentation or proper fire exits.

The emergency exit door was locked and stock was kept inside. The building also did not have fire equipment.

Fined R 1000 for failing to display vehicle prices, the owner of another dealership, who requested anonymity, told POST he felt the blitz could have been handled in a better manner.

“I was not at my business and I got calls  saying there were police and other officials here. I walked in shocked. There was a mob of people. It was a terrifying experience for me. I always have officials coming into my business and conducting the necessary checks, and when they leave everything is fine.

“But the teams just kept finding faults. I appreciate the information they gave me, but the manner in which they barged in and forced me to sign documents was not right.

“I showed them that my business is registered but because it was a copy (of the permit) and not the original - which is always locked away - it was not in compliance,” the businessman said.

He added: “I was left feeling like a criminal. I had customers outside who were about to buy a BMW and they were afraid and even left. They came back to the store a few hours later and told me they were scared and thought I had been operating with stolen vehicles.”

An old, expired operating permit landed another dealership a R2500 fine.

A panel beating business was being operated in the office building, and workers could be seen spray-painting vehicles without using proper protective equipment.