Consumers duped with defective vehicles

15/04/2016 09:05

Owning a car is a luxury that consumers who have saved their earned money can afford. However, not all consumers can afford to buy brand new flashy cars and so go for cheaper second-hand vehicles.

And the expectation for the second-hand car to last long and reflect the dollar value is always there.

Unfortunately, consumers are often duped into purchasing shoddy second-hand vehicles with mechanical faults, often, from the day of purchase. The unscrupulous business practices of some dealers usually leave consumers stranded with faulty vehicles and losing thousands of dollars.

The Council continues to receive complaints against second-hand car dealers where consumers have been tricked into purchasing defective vehicles and vehicles that are not fit for its purpose. Some consumers also experienced mechanical faults in their vehicle after purchase.     

Case study: Defective Motor Vehicle Sold                                                                          

Mrs. Tiko was in need of a good vehicle.

After some vehicle hunting, she finally purchased a motor vehicle from a second-hand car dealer for $38,000 in 2010.  Upon payment of such an exorbitant amount for a second-hand vehicle, she expected the vehicle to be of a good standard and match the dollar value.

Unfortunately things started turning sour from the day of purchase. She experienced her first breakdown on the very day she bought the vehicle. Mrs Tiko was very disappointed, nevertheless, expected the vehicle to be fixed swiftly and properly.

She immediately notified the second-hand car dealer that the vehicle would not start.

The dealer sent a mechanic to Mrs Tiko who advised her that a new car battery needed to be installed.

The incident turned into a nightmare when the same problem occurred the next morning. Mrs. Tiko also noticed smoke emissions and oil leakage problems. She informed the car dealer of the problems again. The vehicle was then taken by the dealer for inspection.

Mrs. Tiko was later advised by the car dealer that there were other problems with the vehicle which included camp and crank sensor problems which she was not informed about earlier and/or during the purchase of the vehicle.

The car dealer was not prepared to attend to any of the problems in the vehicle. Instead he suggested that the vehicle be given to an established garage with the expertise to look into the problems. Request for a replacement vehicle by Mrs Tiko was also rejected.

Instead she had to pay an additional $1,100.00 in cash to discharge the vehicle from the dealer’s garage after inspection.  

The vehicle was finally given to a professional garage with the required expertise to ascertain defects in the vehicle. Mrs Tiko’s dream of owning a car was tarnished when she was advised after a month that the vehicle was beyond repair due to a number of mechanical faults.

Mrs Tiko met with the car dealer and the garage owner to discuss the future costs and repairs for the vehicle and who should be responsible to pay for these costs. Unfortunately the car dealer and garage failed to provide any solution to Mrs. Tiko. The car dealer was not willing to take any responsibility despite pointing out the fact that he sold a defective vehicle.

A defective motor vehicle was sold to a consumer at a hefty price. The car dealer got away with the complainant’s hard earned cash whilst the consumer suffered which is certainly unfair and unreasonable. What made things worse for the consumer was the unavailability of a speedy and inexpensive redress system.

There is an urgent need for second-hand motor vehicles to be regulated The deficiency in the existing legislations and lack of proper laws and regulations result in traders and service providers taking advantage of the vulnerable consumers. Many laws that are already in place have been rendered archaic, calling for major changes or outright replacement. There are several pieces of legislation that need to be brought in line with changing times and changing needs of consumers as well as traders and service providers.

Needless to say it is quite imperative for the enforcement agencies to monitor the standards of second-hand motor vehicles sold in Fiji. Motor vehicle dealers/traders are urged to provide appropriate after sales service on vehicles that need due consideration.

Consumers also need to exercise their responsibility in fully inspecting their vehicles by an independent and experienced mechanics or seek an expert opinion by LTA, which will only cost them $14.50.   

In addition, the unfair business practices calls for a speedy, inexpensive and simple but effective redress system to address consumers’ variety of concerns and problems. This will undoubtedly empower consumers adequately so that he/she is not taken for granted or for a ride by traders and service providers. Therefore, creation of consumer tribunals for simple, speedy and inexpensive redress for consumer disputes has become absolutely necessary.