Buyers Guide: The act of providing protection
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So you’ve managed to pay off your crippling student loan and you can now relieve your faithful but ageing Toyota Corolla of its duties.
After visiting a few dealers, you’ve found the perfect replacement — a brilliant red Suzuki Swift, so you swap cash for keys and you’re on your merry way.
Two weeks down the track, your heart sinks as you hear a thump from under the bonnet and see a stream of smoke wafting out from under the grill. Thankfully, you can breathe easily knowing the Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) has you covered.
The CGA was established in 1993 to contribute to a trading environment in which the interests of consumers are protected, businesses compete effectively, and consumers and businesses can participate confidently.
What does this mean when buying a car?
If a vehicle is purchased for private use from a car dealer, it must be of “acceptable quality”.
This is defined by whether a reasonable person would find the car acceptable when taking into account: the type of vehicle sold, the price paid, information given from the dealer about the car, howit was sold, and any other relevant circumstances, for example how soon after the purchase the problem developed.
A vehicle must also be “fit for purpose” — either generally or must meet a specific purpose you told the dealer about before you purchased the vehicle.
The vehicle must be “as described” meaning it must match the description as advertised or anything the dealer says at the time.
The CGA is not applicable to every sale
The CGA does not apply in situations where the vehicle is bought from a private seller, purchased for business use, or if the vehicle is bought for re-sale or supply in trade.
What can I do?
If you have an issue with the vehicle and believe the dealer should give remedy, make contact with the dealer and let them know you have a problem. Giving them first right of remedy will ensure the potential for a smooth repair process.
Can I just return the vehicle?
There are a few things that must be established first. The CGA states that the dealer will have the vehicle inspected and decide if the fault is minor or serious.
The dealer is required to complete repairs within a reasonable time period, so be sure to tell them when you need the car back by. Try your luck and ask for a courtesy car during the repair, although a dealer is not legally required to provide one.
If you agree to repairs and the problem isn’t fixed correctly, or the vehicle develops further faults, your rights continue. You can choose your remedy options again until your problem is sorted.
If the dealer refuses, fails to do the repairs, or doesn’t do them in a reasonable time, you can choose to have the vehicle repaired elsewhere and claim the cost back from the dealer, or reject the vehicle and claim a refund or a replacement of the same type and similar value if it is in stock.
A problem is considered serious if it cannot be repaired or fixed, or the cost to repair to the vehicle is disproportionate to the purchase price.
If the problem is serious (such as a safety issue), you can reject the vehicle and claim a refund or a replacement of the same type and similar value if it is available in stock, or keep the vehicle and claim compensation.
If a dealer doesn’t agree that the fault is serious, get an independent mechanical report in writing and a quote for the repairs.
If the report supports your claim, go back to the dealer to reject the vehicle and choose a refund, replacement or repairs, plus compensation for the cost of your report.
If the issue is unable to be resolved, the Disputes Tribunal or Motor Vehicle Disputes Tribunal may be the next option.