Friday, 11 February 2011

Be CARful

A selection of recent reader’s complaints that have arrived.

Question 1 – the new car
“I bought a new Mercedes Benz C180 CGI sometime in October last year. It has done about 4,500km and has started showing the check engine light. I called the dealer that sold it to me and they collected it. They then reported to me that the car computer lost memory. I don’t know what to do now. I want them to replace it with a new car. What if something happens in future because of the 1st problem I encountered?”
I’m afraid it’s probably unreasonable to demand a brand new car in this situation. Of course the dealer has an obligation to resolve this problem, the vehicle is still under warranty, but it’s their job to repair the vehicle, not necessarily to replace it. It’s only reasonable to give them the opportunity to fix the problem.

The lesson? Give suppliers a chance to fix things before escalating your demands.

Question 2 – the mechanic
“A mechanic based in Tlokweng took my car in May 2010 for repairs. The car was having a problem with the gear box and he told me it was a computer box issue and he could sort out in 2 days and agreed at a price of P4,000. P2,000 was given as advance and later on he came back telling stories and took another P1,500 for fixing the starter. Last month, he came back and told me that a rack and pinion on the gear box is damaged and I got it fixed at Pistol engineering paying another P1,500.

Even after 8 months, the car is still not ready. He still makes excuses and I have a feeling he has taken out parts from the car and sold it in another cars and my car is parked in his house as a shell.”
I think you realise that you’re being abused, don’t you?

I think the solution is simple. Demand to see your vehicle and get a full status report from the mechanic.

If he refuses to show you your vehicle, or when he does you can see that parts are missing, call the police and ask them to visit him. Accuse him of theft.

If when you see the car things are looking OK you should nevertheless demand a date when you’ll get it back from him.

The lesson? You have a right to know approximately how long something will take to fix. Obviously you need to offer a little flexibility, sometimes these things can be hard to predict precisely but you should be given a rough idea. Then demand that the supplier sticks to it.

Question 3 – the broken car
“Hi, I have a car that I was involved an accident that belongs to a friend of mine, that he uses as a cab. I took the car for panel beating as soon as I had the accident as I realized that it will cost my friend money if it is not at work.

I took the car to be fixed at a panel-beaters but it’s been about 6 months now and I still don't have the car back. The owner has now served me with a demand letter for the car and damages worth 10,500 pula.”
Please tell me that the car was insured? Please?

Regardless of whether it was insured the owner does probably have a right to pursue you for damages. You did, after all, get involved in an accident while you had the car.

However I don’t understand why it took 6 months to get fixed. I suggest you demand that they fix the car as promised and get it back to you by a date you can agree with them. Make it soon!

How did your friend decide that you had cost him P10,500?

The lesson? Insurance!

Question 4 – the missing deposit on a car
“Last year towards Christmas I found a Toyota Landcruiser for my uncle. The man at the dealership told me it cost P155,000 so I put a deposit of P4,000 to hold it while my uncle got a loan. I told the dealer we were expecting about P140,000 pula from the bank and he said it’s fine and to pay what we had and the rest of the money we can pay in on a monthly basis. The loan was approved but after some deductions my uncle only got P122,000. I told the dealer what we got and he said just deposit the money we will talk about the rest.

After that he said the money was too small he needed another P10,000. After a couple of days my uncle said he cannot raise the extra so he would consider a cheaper car. The dealer agreed and said he would look for a cheaper car. After a week we were told that the second choice wasn’t available and my uncle asked for his money to be refunded. The dealer refused saying we have cost him buyers. He says he will only give us back our money when he finds a buyer for the Landcruiser. I asked him if the car stays there unsold for 12 months does it mean that we will have to wait for that long to get the money back and he said yes because I have put the money down on that car.”
He simply cannot keep all your money. The deposit was P4,000, the rest was a down-payment on a specific car that he encouraged you to pay AFTER he realised you couldn’t make the full price. Your uncle deserves his P122,000 back NOW. We’ll get in touch with them on your behalf and see what we can do.

The lesson? Second-hand car dealers make drug dealers look good!

This week’s stars

  • Lucia from Shoprite Checkers for going the extra mile while helping a customer.

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