By Adv. TJ Louw
This is a common and unfortunate problem that many South Africans are faced with daily. It is true that the initial excitement that one experiences after purchasing a car is almost incomparable. However, this initial joy can soon turn sour should it turn out that the vehicle you just bought suffers from various issues that could range from underlying mechanical issues, hidden cosmetic issues or even that it was previously in an accident without you knowing. Should this happen you may feel helpless as the dealership merely turns you away without any assistance. In other cases, the dealership offers to repair the vehicle but leaving you with the bill.
Thankfully, there is a piece of legislation that is looking after you as the consumer. It is called the Consumer Protection Act of South Africa. The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) governs the relationship between a consumer and a supplier. In terms of section 56 of the CPA, all goods sold to a consumer by a supplier are sold with an implied warranty of quality, that cannot be contracted out of or revoked. The warranty gives the consumer the right to receive goods that; are reasonably suitable for the purpose that they are intended to be used for, are of good quality, free of defects and in good working order, and will be durable and usable for a reasonable period of time. If goods are found not to comply with the above requirements, then; up to 6 months after receiving the goods, the consumer can return the goods, or get the goods replaced or repaired. The consumer can do any of these things without penalty; and at the suppliers’ cost.
Furthermore, should you find yourself in a situation where the dealership advises you that they sold the vehicle to you voetstoots, then you are in luck as the general “voetstoots” clause is insufficient. However, you will not be able to return the goods because it was defective or not suitable for the purpose if you were made aware of the specific defects and you agreed to receive the goods in that condition. Nevertheless, should the dealership decline to assist you within your 6 months’ implied warranty of quality as discussed above, you can lodge a complaint against them with Motor Industry Ombudsman and the National Consumer Board.
In the situation where the vehicle bought is still under finance, things are more complicated. It is very important to note that the National Credit Act has to fit into the CPA. It is thus very important that you discuss these issues with your financer as well and in essence, continue to make your monthly payments whilst taking legal steps against the supplier. If you fail to do so, the Bank can and will take legal action against you. Remember, you entered into a financial agreement with the Bank and thus you must continue to honour it even if the car is giving you problems.
COVID-19 Payment Relief Options
An avalanche of financial issues may be on the horizon, however, the current nationwide lockdown is most necessary to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to protect the safety of South Africans, especially our society’s most vulnerable.
Government and South African Banks are offering a helping hand. Banks have announced “payment holidays” “payment arrangements” and a “temporary freeze” on the repayment of loans. Important to stress is that the granting of the solution is evaluated on a case by case basis. It is the debtor (your) responsibility to make contact with your banking institution and to apply for help together with the required information and documentation. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the bank will waive the interest due on the loan. Most likely the payment will be paused but the interest will keep running and added to your outstanding amount.
Employees and employers who have lost income as a direct result of COVID-19 may also look forward to assistance from the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Debt Relief Fund for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises. Please visit www.labour.gov.za for more information and follow @DepofLabour / @UIFbenefits on Twitter for regular updates.
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Adv. TJ Louw (LLB) (LLM) from Legal Hero