Ford customers incensed by waiver of rights claim

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Capetonian Bradley Shewitz was told by the Dealer Principal of Imperial Ford Diepriver‚ Gaven Osmond‚ last week that he could not get his money back for his faulty 2014 1.6l Ford Kuga‚ purchased in August 2016.

His vehicle is one of 4‚556 Kugas being recalled across South Africa.

The recall‚ which affects Kugas manufactured between 2012 and 2014‚ was announced last week by Ford – under pressure from the National Consumer Commission.

The commission was angered by Ford’s delayed response in dealing with 51 Kugas which caught fire in South Africa between December 2015 and January 2017. One vehicle owner‚ Reshall Jimmy‚ burned to death in his Kuga but the company insists this incident was different to other fires caused by coolant system problems.

Shewitz contacted the Diepriver dealership about the fires in December and was told to bring in his car if it overheated.

“Last week‚ after the recall announcement‚ I again contacted the dealership‚ but no one would assist me.” Angered‚ he eventually met with Osmond.

“I couldn’t believe his attitude after I told him that I wanted a full refund on a faulty vehicle. He said my problem is not his problem to resolve.

“When I told Osmond my rights were protected under the Consumer Protection Act‚ and that I was within the six month period to return my car as guaranteed by the Act and could either request a full refund or repair‚ he told me that when I signed the purchase agreement I waivered my right to return the vehicle‚” he said.

“Osmond was more than happy for me to trade my car in or have it repaired‚ but that’s not what I wanted to do.” Fearing for his family’s safety he begrudgingly had the coolant system repaired.

Commission spokesman Trevor Hattingh said the only times the Act did not cover a consumer was when the transaction related to the financial services sector‚ which has its own ombudsman to deal with complaints. Or when the transaction took place beyond the country’s borders; when the goods were bought on auction‚ or if a consumer was expressly told the goods offered were in a specific condition‚ and the consumer expressly agreed to accept the goods in that condition .

“Other than these exceptions the consumer is covered by the Act‚” he said‚ and encouraged people who found themselves in such situations to lay a complaint.

“This will be assessed to see if the customer had been duped or not.”

Shewitz was incensed‚ especially as Ford knew of the problem before it found its way into the public domain. “Had I known of these problems I would never have bought the car.”

He said the company and its dealerships had no idea how to resolve disputes with customers.

“How can they say that we waiver our rights‚ which are guaranteed in law?”

Consumer protection lawyer‚ Janusz Luterek‚ said: “You cannot hang a sign on your front door that says that you are not bound by the Act. The Act is in place to deal with the imbalance of power between the consumer and big business and entrenched consumers rights.

“For Ford to do this – waiver a customer’s rights with the signing of a purchasing agreement – would be illegal.”

He said there was an academic debate on the refund section in the Act but there were definite levels of defects where customers were entitled to return the product.

Osmond told The Times that on a vehicle offer to purchase there were certain terms which were excluded from the Act.

“This is what all vehicle dealerships have on their offers to purchase. It is not just us‚” he said.

-TMG Digital/The Times

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