Selling a used car just won't be the same for car dealerships wanting to off-load a dicey vehicle to an unsuspecting buyer, thanks to the new Consumer Protection Act.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The new Consumer Protection Act (CPA) means that used car dealers will have to exercise extra caution if they plan to implement business practices that violate consumers' rights provided for in the Act.
"The essence is simple, if they contravene the provisions of the Act, they get penalised - some good news for a change for the South African motorist," says Gary Ronald, head of Public Affairs for the Automobile Association.
Consumers will also have easier access to enforcing their rights which have been legislated by the act. This means the days of relying on the law of contract, and obtaining legal relief to make sure your side of the story is heard, are over. Cooling-off period, but be aware of parameters
"And you will no longer be forced to incur legal expenses to appoint an attorney to take legal action, you can now approach adjudicative bodies like the motor industry ombudsman or the Consumer Commission directly when seeking relief," adds Ronald.
Also notable is the cooling-off period, which means if a buyer makes an impulse buy he or she can return the car, no strings attached.
However, this cooling-off period does have clear-cut parameters: it lasts for a period of five business days and can be invoked only if the buyer has bought a car as a result of direct marketing concerning that same product from a supplier.
For example, the dealer would need to send you an SMS or email encouraging you to take advantage of reduced prices on certain vehicles, if you then buy one of those and change your mind, you have five days to renege on the deal.
Consumers can also return goods to the supplier for a full refund in circumstances when the goods are not of the quality contemplated in the agreement between the consumer and the supplier. Depletion of goods
However, consumers will not get off scot-free if they enjoy the use of a pre-owned vehicle for some time, adding mileage and possibly affecting the condition of the car. Sellers may impose a reasonable charge for the consumption or depletion of goods or any costs required for the restoration of the goods if they have been used.
The common-law principle of buying a car voetstoots
, or what you see is what you get, is now a thing of the past - with the new law, consumers will need to be made fully aware of what they are getting themselves into.
False, misleading or deceptive representations are also a no go, and suppliers will need to be wary of making false representations or failing to disclose a material fact regarding the condition of pre-owned vehicles to a consumer. Right to cancel
Consumers have the right to cancel the sale should they feel they have been deceived.
Last but not least, consumers now have the right to cancel a sale if obligations with respect to delivery of goods and supply of services are not met.
The Act makes it an implied condition that every transaction will take place according to what was agreed between the consumer and supplier, for example the delivery of a vehicle at an agreed time, date and place.
If a consumer has agreed with a dealer that certain items on a pre-owned vehicle will be repaired and functional upon delivery, then the dealer is under obligation to comply or his sale may very well be cancelled.
"The AA welcomes the new legislation with open arms as a welcome respite in times that see us digging deeper and deeper into our pockets to make ends meet," says Ronald.