Unauthorised motor vehicle dealers

September 28, 2018

Buying a car is an investment.

Consumers pay large amounts of money to purchase a car because it is an investment into their future.

Most times individuals take years to save before they can pay for a car or its deposit at least.When unscrupulous businesses take consumers hard earned money under the guise of being legitimate traders, there is bound to be questions as to how they get their money back.

A growing number of consumers continue to be duped by individuals purporting to be authorised motor vehicle dealers. Recently, the Council has received complaints against Advantage Cars Ltd, a company that had been stripped off their dealership licence by the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Complainants who purchased vehicles from Advantage Cars found the process lengthy and queried why there was a delay in receiving their vehicles.

After lodging their complaints with the Council, they had found that the company was no longer allowed to sell cars because their licence to retail vehicles (Authorised Motor Vehicle Dealers license) was revoked.

The Council noted that despite this, the trader was still accepting money from consumers with the promise that they would deliver. From complaints lodged at the Council, Advantage cars owed three consumers more than $20,000 collectively.

One complainant had paid a deposit of $7,000 in July earlier this year. Since Advantage Cars could not provide the vehicle in a timely manner, the complainant cancelled the transaction and the respondent had agreed to refund the entire sum within seven days.

The refund process was prolonged causing the consumers to lodge a complaint with the Council. A mediation was conducted with the two parties. However, Advantage Cars still failed to provide redress.

The complaint was then referred to the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Through a company search, the Council found that directors Rizwan Ali Haroon and Roopal Patel had previously owned Nativa Motors and their license had also been revoked. LTA had found that the couple was tampering with the odometers.

The couple later engaged Roopal Patel’s parents to register for a business and dealership licence. As such, the company by the name of Advantage Cars Limited (ACL) was formed in January 2015. In October 2015, the couple were the directors of the company.

Their license was later revoked as they had changed their physical address. LTA regulations require separate applications be made for any vehicle dealing business that is more than one kilometre away from another such business operated by the applicant.

On June 12 earlier this year, LTA had noted the change in physical address from 142 Ratu Mara Rd, Samabula in Suva. Registrations for vehicles from ACL was stopped from then onwards. They had also advised ACL that they were not to conduct business in any form whether it be trading or issuing quotations.

The company’s decision to continue to sell cars despite the invalidated license meant they were in direct contravention of section 54 (3) (a) of the Land Transport Act which states: “no person shall sell by auction or tender, a motor vehicle or otherwise operate a motor vehicle dealing business without being a holder of a motor vehicle dealing certificate”.

The trader’s actions in the present case were illegal.

They took advantage of the consumer’s lack of knowledge of the requirements a trader must comply with to be able to sell motor vehicles. They accepted money from consumers with the knowledge that they would not be able to provide the vehicles having had their license revoked.

Fiji has 92 authorised motor vehicle traders across the country that are registered with the Land Transport Authority. Some traders operate in all the three Divisions.

Consumers who wish to purchase motor vehicles are strongly encouraged to contact the Authority for the list of authorised dealers which they can liaise with. Only companies with a valid license can register vehicles with the LTA.

It is also imperative that traders provide consumers with all relevant information about second hand vehicles.

These include:

i) Age of the vehicle

ii) History of the vehicle (previous owner, use record)

iii) How it was acquired iv) Existing defects

v) True mileage (export certificate)

vi) Suitability of use

vii) Safety features

viii) Motor vehicle specifications

ix) Availability of spare parts

x) Terms and conditions of sale

xi)All payable costs to be borne by the consumer including any consideration of tax or legal charges

Traders must at all times provide consumers a copy of the export certificate. The export certificate provides critical information like year, make, model and mileage.

f in the event the trader does not provide it, consumers must demand for it. In addition, traders must issue a contract that accurately captures all the issues and conditions of sale agreed to by both parties.

If the consumer has made a deposit, they must be issued a receipt. All documents including warranties must be made available to a consumer before handover. It is important that consumers know and understand what is required when purchasing vehicles.

They should contact the Council should they feel a trader has been involved in unethical business dealings. Complaints can be lodged on the Council’s toll free helpline 155 or emailed to complaints@consumersfiji.org