Friday 28 March 2008

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

I bought a second hand car last week from a garage on the so-called “voetstoots” agreement which they say means that you take the vehicle ‘as it is.’

A day later the car indicated that it needs coolant when in actual fact it did not have any water. The car overheated and I couldn’t use it for the whole weekend and had to take it to the garage on Monday morning and paid P1,500 for it to be fixed.

Please advice me on this ‘voetstoots’ thing because a lot of us will get conned by garages through this clause. Also please advise on whether can claim my money back from the garage

Well, firstly there is nothing in our laws specifically about “voetstoots” sales although most of us know what this means and it’s a common term used in car sales. As you say it means you buy something on an “as is” or “as it stands” basis. The idea is that you buy something cheaply but in return you take all the risk regarding it’s condition. The seller is trying to shed all responsibility for the condition of the item he’s selling.

The real problem you face is whether you really understood what that meant when you bought this car. Did you honestly understand that you were buying it on that basis? If you can prove that you didn’t understand what that term meant you could claim the seller had broken Section 17 (1) (g) of the Consumer Protection Regulations which deals with causing confusion with language. However it would be VERY difficult to prove. Even though it’s an Afrikaans word most of us understand what it means.

Also if you could show that they didn’t mention it clearly you could claim they deceived you and broke Section 17 (1) (e) which says a seller can’t avoid the basic “implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use” unless they make it perfectly clear to you before you sign anything.

Realistically we suspect that you stand little chance of getting your money back. If your purchase agreement says “voetstoots” you are going to find it hard to get anything back.

The lesson is simple. When you buy a second-hand car take a friendly mechanic with you and trust their judgment!

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