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New ruling eases road to repairs for car owners

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Vehicle owners will be able to buy parts and have their vehicles serviced at any independent service provider without compromising or forfeiting their vehicle’s motor plan or service plan, from 1 July 2021.

This follows a Competition Commission ruling that stemmed from appeals by Right to Repair, a global movement that champions car owners’ rights to turn to their trusted workshop of choice, should their vehicle require maintenance or servicing.

“Until this ruling, South Africa has been the only country in the world with restrictive and embedded motor and service plans, that effectively remove consumers’ choice of who they trust to work on their vehicle,” says Estelle Nagel, marketing manager at Gumtree.

Consumer guidelines now state that at the point of sale when a car is bought, the consumer can choose whether they want a service plan or not. Should they choose not to, they will be able to service the vehicle at any after-market workshop. This is common practice elsewhere in the world.

“Previously, vehicle owners had to take their ‘in-plan’ vehicles to original equipment manufacturers if they wanted repairs or replacement parts, whether or not they trusted the supplier, and regardless of whether they were in convenient proximity or not,” she adds. “The ruling means that consumers will have the power of choice to buy from independent suppliers or from platforms like Gumtree, without compromising the guarantee or warranty on their vehicle.”

Cars have become increasingly technologically advanced, which is good for consumers, but has also made them more difficult to service or repair. Without the technological information, multi-brand diagnostic tools and test equipment and replacement parts and training required, independent workshops have been side-lined from service and repair work.

Furthermore, some big vehicle brands restricted the range of replacement parts and tools that were made available to independent repair shops, often charging a premium when selling these items to vehicle repair and maintenance professionals that were independent to their networks.

Consumers having the choice to include an extended warranty into their vehicle purchase price also means that independent service providers will have more access to customers.

“While a 5-10-year warranty is a great value-add at purchase, it ties the buyer into a relationship that they may not necessarily be happy with, for a very long time. It also takes livelihoods away from after-market and independent workshops,” says Right to Repair Director, Les McMaster.

“Warranties would also become longer, up to 10 years, which means that work would also be taken away from after-market workshops. Now, warranties can be transferred to independent dealerships, making it more convenient than ever to buy cars online than ever!”

“Apart from this ruling giving the power of choice to car owners, we also expect that big vehicle brands are going to have to reduce their service costs to keep competitive – which is another win for South African consumers,” he says.

McMaster anticipates that some dealers will refuse to cover the warranty for after-service work that they have not completed, but that Right to Repair is prepared to take these cases to the Competition Commission.

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