Motorists, know your rights

With many South Africans feeling the harsh economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 is definitely the year to exercise caution, preserve one’s assets and shop around for the most competitive prices.

Good news for motorists is that restrictions on servicing and buying vehicle parts have been lifted following the publication by the Competition Commission of the final Right to Repair guidelines in December.

For those consumers who may have been away on a much-needed December break and missed the news, Les McMaster, vice chairperson of the Motor Industry Workshop Association and a director of Right to Repair South Africa, a Section-21 non-profit organisation, unpacks the four main benefits for South African motorists:

• The freedom to shop around. OEMs cannot bundle service plans or motor plans and other value-added products or add-ons with the sale of motor vehicles any longer. These need to be offered as separate products with the cost and savings outlined for the consumer.

McMaster said as a consumer you need to insist you get full disclosure of the purchase price of the vehicle, the prices of service and maintenance plans and other value-added products, all information regarding the maintenance and repair of motor vehicles, as well as the terms and conditions under which they are required and/or permitted to maintain and repair their vehicle, the average price for each service interval (at the time of sale of the vehicle) and the average price of the parts covered by the maintenance plan and service plan that commonly require replacement at specific kilometer intervals or upon the vehicle attaining a specific age.

• The freedom of choice during the warranty period. This is a big win. The warranty cannot be voided because the consumer chooses to go to an independent service provider (ISP) for maintenance or for repair work that would not traditionally be covered by the existing warranty.

The fitment of non-original parts or accessories can also not be penalised. McMaster said to note that OEMs may not set minimum retail prices for spare parts and may not hinder a consumer’s choice when purchasing value-added products concurrently, and together with, a new vehicle from approved dealers. “This allows consumers to purchase value-added products from any licensed provider of their choice, including independent/third-party providers.”

• Insurance work. Insurers are now obligated to advise consumers in clear and explicit terms that they have a right to have the repairs on their vehicles undertaken by any ISP of their choice. Basically, this means that the consumer has the freedom to choose where their vehicle is repaired, irrespective of whether it is an insurance claim.

• Access to technical information and training by ISPs. This allows independent workshops to get the same technical information, programming tools and training as the OEM-approved workshops, as well as access to original spare parts. McMaster said to ensure that all the work carried out on a vehicle is traceable.

Independent aftermarket workshops are obliged to record such in-warranty work undertaken in the customers’ vehicle service books. Access to security-critical components is subject to the ISP meeting the OEM’s accreditation requirements and standards, as per the OEM’s global practice.

McMaster said the guidelines clearly encourage OEMs to make technical maintenance and repair information readily available, including information stored electronically or in the cloud, to ISPs. To be fair to all parties, the OEM may impose reasonable conditions, including the requirement that the ISP must sign a confidentiality undertaking.

“All of these aspects are great news for the consumer, increasing competition and allowing easier access to the market by ISPs. Ultimately more competition always leads to better prices, better quality and better service.

We can see that Right to Repair is gathering momentum globally too, following wins at the end of last year in Massachusetts and Australia. This bodes well for our local motoring public,” concluded McMaster.

Source: Right to Repair – Cathy Finlay, PR