Right to Repair: make sure you know your responsibilities
SERVICE your car wherever you like? And fit non-original parts? Without voiding your warranty?
Yes, please, I hear the South African motoring public saying. But before you take your shiny new wheels down the road to Honest Pete’s backyard workshop for your next service, stop, let’s think about this for a moment.
Yes, it is absolutely true that the Competition Commission’s new guidelines for the South African automotive industry – known as Right to Repair – which came into effect on July 1, have changed the game for car owners and the entire motor industry.
You can indeed repair your motor vehicle at the service provider of your choice, and choose which parts you fit, whether your vehicle is still under warranty or not.
And when buying a car, the dealer is obliged to cost the service plan out as a separate line item – and give you the choice to decline it, without affecting your warranty.
And I cannot agree more that overall, the guidelines are good news for South African consumers, because they will lower costs across the board, increase competition and bring more service providers and repairers into the industry.
But while you have far greater freedom of choice than ever before in the aftermarket care of your vehicle, you also have the responsibility to ensure that this care meets certain standards.
And that’s the bit that many people don’t realise. If you buy a new car under warranty and service it anywhere other than the dealer, it comes with a level of risk.
If something breaks and you take your car back to the dealer, and they find that your warranty-related failure is due to inferior quality parts, incorrect service procedures or faulty workmanship, they are within their rights to decline the warranty.
The same applies for not having a proper service record in place. Let’s just say the “savings” you made by not taking out the service plan may not be enough to soothe your aching bank balance.
So before you decline that service plan, or take your car to the guy around the corner whose brother used to work at a dealership, you want to ask yourself a question or two.
When servicing your vehicle with an independent service provider (ISP), are you confident that they procure parts from reputable suppliers and use only recognised, quality parts?
Are you confident your ISP has adequate commercial insurance cover in the case of a warranty dispute? Are you happy that your service record is robust and watertight?
And do your sums. Compare the cost of a service plan across three years with what it would cost you to service privately.
Remember, quality of service comes at a price. Dealers spend millions of rand each year training their staff and investing in the latest equipment. And if anything goes wrong, you have far more recourse with the dealer than you ever will with a workshop down the road.
But the real kicker of choosing to service independently could come at sale time.
When you’re looking to trade your vehicle, or sell it privately, the buyer may lower their price – or even walk away from the deal – if they’re not seeing a sufficient service record, or there are concerns about the reputability of your service provider.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself in this instance. FirstCheck (www.firstcheck.co.za, or in the app stores) not only provides the current market value of the car, but provides instant, anywhere, anytime access on the value and status of a specific vehicle, including whether it’s currently listed as stolen.
Ultimately, I’m all for any developments that help the South African consumer save some money, or have more choices.
And I certainly think the broader service and repair industry could do with a bit of a shake-up, and a dash of diversity.
But before you go out and embrace your rights, please do so with eyes wide open. Happy motoring.