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Welcome to Scorpion’s Legal Tips! Every week we’ll share stories of injustice and show you how you can strike back legally.
Thomas* took his car in for a basic service. The service was done, but he noticed that the passenger’s side door had a long scratch across it, like someone had driven too close to a wall. When he called the workshop to complain, they said it wasn’t their problem and they couldn’t guarantee that “minor scratches” wouldn’t happen because the workshop was busy. Azikhiphi! That’s not on! Scorpion Legal Protection explains how Thomas can handle this situation.
Just like any other situation that involves a consumer and a supplier, taking your vehicle to the dealership for a service means you enter into an agreement and entrust your vehicle to the dealership. They have a responsibility to treat the vehicle with due diligence and reasonable care, without exposure to any risks.
Similar to how you should do an inspection before you move into a new rental, it’s important to do a pre-inspection when you hand your car in to the mechanic. Mark any existing damage on your car. This means you and the mechanic will be in agreement about the condition of the vehicle when it is handed in, and there can be no ‘he said, she said’ arguments later on.
When you collect your vehicle from the workshop, do another inspection. The dealership should give you documents, like an invoice, that list exactly what was done to your vehicle. This is important, because the documents will act as your proof of whether the scratch was due to the negligent conduct of the dealership or whether it was already there when you brought your vehicle in. In order to take legal action against the workshop, you will need to be able to prove that the scratch was not there when you brought the vehicle in.
If you can prove the above, you will be entitled to hold the dealership accountable for the damages caused to your vehicle as a result of them being negligent with your vehicle while carrying out the service.
You should lodge a formal complaint with the workshop’s complaints department first. Tell them that they will need to either pay you for the damage caused, or that they will need to fix the damage. If they refuse, or the quality of the repair work is poor, you can escalate the matter to the Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA) which specifically deals with motor vehicle-related disputes.
It is important to note that if you want to claim damages, MIOSA can only assist you if you have not already had the vehicle fixed by another supplier. They will only have jurisdiction if you want to get the original workshop that is responsible for scratching the vehicle, to fix it. MIOSA does not have jurisdiction to force suppliers to pay damages, and will not be able to hear your matter. If you have already fixed the vehicle elsewhere and want to claim compensation for this, you will need to approach the National Consumer Commission (NCC), National Consumer Tribunal (NCT), or go to the civil courts – Small Claims if the amount is less than R20 000 or the Magistrate’s Court if it is more than R20 000.
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*Cases are based on fictional characters unless otherwise indicated.
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* This is only basic paralegal advice and cannot be relied on solely. The information is correct at the time of being sent to publishing.
Date added: 22 November 2021
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