November is one of the busiest times for car dealers as they try to clear stock for December and the new year. But with hundreds of complaints being lodged at the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) in relation to automotives, prospective buyers are being encouraged to walk with their mechanics when they go car shopping.
Since January 2018 to the end of September 2019, the commission received 212 complaints under its Automotive and Parts category. A total of 412 complaints were lodged from April 2015 to March 31, 2019.
“Complaints vary in nature, from goods not being delivered within the prescribed time to vehicles malfunctioning, and issues of what is covered under warranty,” the CAC noted in emailed responses to questions sent by The Sunday Gleaner.
But while acknowledging that some consumers have lodged complaints following their dissatisfaction with their purchases, Lynvalle Hamilton, president of the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association (JUCDA), is not worried about any possible reputational damage to the industry.
“When you compare the number of cars that are imported against the complaints, it is not a lot. It is not a lot at all because you are looking at over 35,000 vehicles [imported] for the year,” he said.
“A complaint is not saying that the person is at fault, so when you look at the number of cars, I think the dealers are doing very well.”
Hamilton said that, based on investigations, some of these complaints have not been found to be legitimate. However, sometimes the dealer tries to pacify the consumer by rectifying the issue.
“A consumer can purchase a car and believe that he or she has warranty, and they complain to the Consumer Affairs Commission and, based on the terms and conditions under which they purchased the vehicle, they really do not have a legitimate complaint,” he said.
Hamilton contended that a buyer’s complaint of a malfunctioning vehicle is not legitimate, for example, if they brought a mechanic with them to check the vehicle prior to purchase. This, he said, is based on the interpretation of section 15 of the Sale of Goods Act.
“Warranty is optional. It is all dependent on the consumer; the consumer can create warranty for themselves. It is dependent on section 15B or 15A of the Sale of Goods Act where 15B tells you that if you rely on the expertise of the dealer, there is implied warranty,” he said.
“But if you take it upon yourself to get your mechanic to examine the vehicle for faults, there is no warranty.”
He said consumers also sometimes complain about the condition of the car upon pick up of the vehicle.
“Most times, what you hear is that customers will purchase a car and they come to pick up, and there might be a dent or scratch here and they would like it to be sorted out before the car leaves, when that was not in the agreement. They saw the car and they accepted the car, but when they come to pick up the car, they are not happy,” he said.
“That is why it is good you inspect the car and whatever it is that you want to be addressed, you indicate that you would want it to be addressed, and you can put it in writing to be on the safe side,” he advised.
The CAC has advised that those seeking to purchase a car “should take along a mechanic to examine the vehicle, be familiar with the terms and conditions of the sale, secure your financing before making a commitment to prevent the loss of a deposit; try to avoid making large purchases with just only seeing a picture, and try to get a vehicle history report”.
The prices for cars are usually significantly reduced this time of the year because both local dealers and suppliers overseas are hoping to get rid of stock that they would not be able to ship the following year.
The CAC tips for purchasing your dream car:
1. Make a minimum of three visits to a dealership, thoroughly examining the car you need. Bear in mind shape and lifestyle.
2. Do not be wooed into buying a ‘hot’ car or ‘hot’ colours as this may prove to be more expensive.
3. Do not be lured into making an impulsive switch from a compact to mid-sized car based solely on a good sales pitch from the dealer or the bank. This will end up costing you in a higher interest rate, longer period for payment, and your loan balance will be larger than you originally planned.
4. Try to keep your loan commitment to a maximum of five years or 60 months. You do not want to be paying for a car two years after it is no longer able to do the job you intended when you first bought it.
5. Consult your credit union, personal banker, and dealer and compare the interest rates being offered. Stay away from zero down payment or one that may be extremely low. This usually means a huge balance on your loan with a high interest rate to be paid over a longer period, say six to seven years.
6. Consider the additional costs that you will need to meet immediately and in the first 21 days of purchasing your new/used car: i. Processing fee can range from $80,000, including Stamp Duty. ii. In addition, you may need to provide passport-sized photos. This is an additional cost. iii. Insurance cost must be paid up front. Some banks and dealerships offer discounted rates based on a joint agreement with an insurance broker/company. iv. Registration and licensing fees (usually included in new car price). v. Maintenance costs and warranty. Review this carefully, especially if you are buying a used vehicle.
7. Finally, test-drive before you sign. Think, calculate, plan, budget and review your loan agreement before you sign on the dotted line to ensure that your are getting all that you have been promised, at no additional cost. 8. Leave your decision for a few days to ensure that you will be able to successfully manage a financially demanding long-term agreement.
Section 15 of the Sale of Goods Act
15. Subject to the provisions of this act and of any statute in that behalf, there is no implied warranty or condition as to the quality or fitness for any particular purpose of goods supplied under a contract of sale, except as follows:
(a) Where the buyer, expressly or by implication, makes known to the seller the particular purpose for which the goods are required, so as to show that the buyer relies on the seller’s skill or judgement, and the goods are of a description which it is in the course of the seller’s business to supply (whether he be the manufacturer or not), there is an implied condition that the goods shall be reasonably fit for such purpose, provided that in the case of a contract for the sale of a specified article under its patent or other trade name, there is no implied condition as to its fitness for any particular purpose.
(b) Where goods are bought by description from a seller who deals in goods of that description (whether he be the manufacturer or not), there is an implied condition that the goods shall be of merchantable quality; provided that if the buyer has examined the goods, there shall be no implied condition as regards defects which such examination ought to have revealed.
(c) An implied warranty or condition as to quality or fitness for a particular purpose may be annexed by the usage of the trade.
(d) An express warranty or condition does not negative a warranty or condition implied by this act unless inconsistent therewith.