Vehicle Buying Blunder

May 19, 2017

Buying a vehicle is no longer a farfetched dream.

Today, consumers are just a step away from driving off with their own vehicle, particularly with the increase in the number of second hand car dealers and the plethora of cars placed in their showrooms and yards. Government policies and low interest rate of 8% for car loans is also encouraging consumers to own a vehicle. All consumers have to do is to secure financial assistance through their banks and pay the required deposit.

Unfortunately, every transaction comes with its fair share of risk and it is the consumers’ responsibility to practice vigilance when it comes to such matters. The Consumer Council of Fiji has unfailingly been advocating on the issues surrounding the purchase of second hand cars from dealers. In the past six years the Council received more than 150 complaints worth more than $1.6m regarding innumerable issues with second hand vehicles or with traders.

While the Council continues to shed light on deceptive conducts of some motor vehicle traders, it however, calls on consumers to act responsibly when purchasing a vehicle rather than trusting the salesperson, business owner or relatives.

The call comes in light of a recent complaint received by the Council where the consumer did not tread carefully and got his nephew to purchase a second hand vehicle on his behalf from a particular second hand motor vehicle dealer. Later when the vehicle broke down, the nephew got it repaired at another garage despite the vehicle being under warranty with the dealer. When the problem persisted, the consumer then decided to take the vehicle to the trader who was unwilling to fix the problem as it was not brought to their attention in the first place.

Joeli wanted to start a transportation business for which he needed a mini bus. He transferred a sum of $20,000 from his bank account into his nephew’s account who he presumed could help him to purchase a 16 seater mini bus from a second hand car dealer in the city. This money was given for the outright purchase of the vehicle. However, Joeli’s nephew only paid $10,000 to the car dealer, and retained the rest of the money. According to the nephew, he intended to make monthly installments from the amount he retained without advising his uncle.

Oblivious to the fact, Joeli after receiving the vehicle decided to upgrade windows and to install seats which amounted to $4,000. Unfortunately, during this period, the vehicle broke down and needed urgent repairs. It appeared that a faulty vehicle was sold with some cosmetic changes to the unsuspecting consumer.

However, since it was under warranty, the matter could have been addressed if the vehicle was taken to the dealer initially. However, since Joeli’s nephew took the vehicle to another mechanic for diagnosis and repairs, this resulted in the warranty being null and void.

To make matters worse, during this period monthly repayments were not made as Joeli had no idea that the vehicle was under monthly repayment. As a result of several non-payments, the second hand car dealer repossessed the vehicle.

Feeling annoyed with the turn of events, Joeli lodged his complaint with the Council.

After assessing the case, the Council informed Joeli that the vehicle was bought under payment and by taking the vehicle to an independent mechanic rendered the warranty invalid.

Joeli then demanded a refund of $10,000 from the dealer, which his nephew obtained by deception. He was obviously unaware of the terms and conditions of the agreement between his nephew and the car dealer. The Council advised him that the matter being a criminal offence needed to be pursued with the Fiji Police Force.

At the end of the day, Joeli’s business never took off as he placed his trust on his nephew and failed to play the lead role in purchasing the vehicle.

The Council reiterates its call to consumers who plan to invest huge sums of money to buy a motor vehicle, house or any other asset, need to play their part by being an active buyer. They should take initiatives in understanding more about the product and the surrounding legal implications.

Remember, exercising consumer responsibility will help consumers avoid huge financial losses. Consumer rights, undoubtedly, come with responsibilities. Consumers, must at all times make informed decisions while purchasing goods and hiring any services.