If you’re looking for cheap entertainment or to pass some time, look no further than Hello Peter. The popular customer complaints site, for those of you that don’t know, is a treasure trove of hilarious, horrifying and informative content - it’s also the bain of South African companies and corporates. Looking for a pick-me-up on a long Monday, we looked at the most upvoted complaints that consumers had about the motoring industry. Ranging from dealerships, car insurance, mechanical services to manufacturers themselves the complaints paint a bleak picture. Scores of South Africans left out of pocket for crazy amounts, months of ongoing issues left unresolved and constant disputes between consumer and provider.
What is striking about most of these complaints on Hellopeter , is not their horrifying content, but the number of people who share these issues - and how they could’ve easily been avoided. Here are 5 common Hello Peter car horror stories and how to avoid them.
What Gets South Africans Hot Under The Collar?
It’s important to note that most of the complaints on Hello Peter generally lack information and most of the companies listed are subject to review bombs on a regular basis - see Discovery’s reviews after their numerous controversies. It’s a rant session rather than a solution provider. For instance, a common complaint would go along these lines; “I bought from X company, and after X-km of driving it, it broke down! What absolute…” - you can fill in the rest. There’s really not a lot of information provided. Were you made aware of any defects? Does the Consumer Protection Act apply in your case? All the complaints on Hello Peter regarding the motor industry are like this. But they seem to fall in these areas, issues with new and secondhand cars after taking ownership, non-approved claims and disputes arising from warranty repairs. While these common issues are broad, some of them do relate to each other in many ways. Naturally, most articles about this subject will point you towards the CPA. But the point is to avoid that situation altogether and not having to go through the lengthy process of filing with the Ombudsman in the first place.
1) My New Car Broke Down Shortly After Taking Ownership:
Probably the most common complaint levelled at dealerships, specifically second-hand cars, is mechanical issues with the car after taking ownership. It’s a complaint that makes you most empathetic with the driver. The excitement over your new set of wheels, and before you’ve even got into 5th gear you’ve broken down on Gillooly’s Interchange. Now you’re stuck with a broken car and locked in a slogging match with the dealer over a refund.
I bought a secondhand vehicle from a reputable dealership. I viewed the car and noted that there was a problem with the suspension and that the brakes needed replacing. I signed-off on the car and decided to repair it at my cost. After a short period of driving, the car stopped working. The problem was the piston rings, headers and a whole host of components that needed to be replaced - which would come at an exorbitant cost. The dealership refused the refund on account of selling me a defective car, and now I’m stuck with a car that doesn’t work and an R40k bill to repair it.
Firstly, did you have all the correct information and documentation regarding the car beforehand? From VIN number to service history, the onus is on you to thoroughly do your homework on the background of the car your buying and before signing anything. Do a VIN number check to get the full history of the car, from past accidents status, the finance status, the stolen car status, and the original engine number, and refer to the information provided by the seller.
Related: The Importance Of A VIN Number Check
Secondly, were you made aware of any defects with the car before you bought it, that any reasonable person who was made aware would not continue with the transaction? Simply, if you bought a car that was advertised as a non-runner you can’t be annoyed that it doesn’t run. In this case, if you’ve reviewed and test-driven the car and noted the defects with the dealer, signed the contract and driven off in the sunset the seller is going to have a strong case going to the Ombudsman.
Another important point with regards to second hand vehicles, the age, and mileage of the car plays a part. If the vehicle has 150,000km, it would be reasonable that certain components will be worn from long-term use. So after taking ownership, the car has stopped working because there’s carbon build-up inside the engine, it will be difficult to hold the seller liable, because this would fall under wear and tear.
Additionally, wear and tear on components that don’t prohibit the general purpose of the car, the CPA won’t be applied. For instance, the aircon malfunctions after you’ve bought the car, you won’t be able to return the car based on being sold defective goods as the aircon doesn’t reasonably negate you from using the car for its purpose - see below. It’s crucial to note that this is not always the case and you should seek legal clarification for your particular issue and contract.
Lastly, with regards to the CPA and the 6-month return, there are some caveats. As many legal professionals have pointed out, the CPA quality warranty does not provide protection against fair general wear and tear, misuse and abuse. Additionally, there’s no general rule or cooling-off period that applies to car sales. This means that any returns policy is entirely at the discretion of the dealership. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a generous returns policy among dealerships, with many having a 24 hour period for returns as soon as you drive out the showroom. So it's crucial to do your homework and not be pressured into buying a car until you know what you’re buying and the contract you’re getting into.
2) The Dealership Valued My Car For Next To Nothing!
Another popular complaint on Hello Peter is the age-old “my valuation vs your valuation” debacle. We understand the anger of some drivers and sellers. Getting peanuts for the car that you have meticulously cared for and maintained, only to see that same car marked-up by 50% on the floor after you’ve given in and let it go. Or being offered an amount that’s nearly half of what you valued your car at by a salesperson that only has a commission in-sight. It leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth and the indignity of being taken advantage of. One complaint summarizes this quite well.
I recently took my car into a reputable dealer to sell. The car has ultra-low mileage, in excellent condition and well-cared for. I’ve also installed modifications, like an Akrapovic exhaust system, valued at R15k. The sales rep offered me between R20,000 to R30,000 below trade value, which is an absolute rip-off! He advised me that this the best deal possible and if I wasn’t happy I was more than welcome to try my luck selling it privately. I agreed as I don’t have the time to market the car myself. When I navigated their website much later, I found that my car was selling at above the original amount that I valued it at myself! Beware of these scam-artists!
A few things to cover on this particular type of complaint. Unfortunately, if you’re selling your car through a secondhand dealership you’ll have to come to the realisation that dealerships are businesses. While I’m sure they have some consumer-value orientated marketing pitch, fundamentally, their bottom-line and turnover are what matters most. If a pushy salesperson is telling you that their offer is the best around and you should take it or take a hike, why would you take their word for it? It’s in your best interest to shop around for the best deal on your car. If you don’t have the time to sell it privately and market your vehicle, dealerships are a good option. But, your expectations have to be realistic. Second Hand dealerships are taking the risk that your car is likely to sit in stock for a while, and that includes the marketing cost of listing and advertising your car as well as dealing with buyers.
Related: Do You Know How Much Your Car Is Really Worth?
Car valuation is a tricky subject and is often used incorrectly by car buyers and sellers. For example, in this particular complaint, the buyer has installed an R15,000 modification that he believes increases the value of the car by that amount. Modified cars do not sell well on the secondhand market, and they attract a particular but small segment of the market - and that’s assuming it’s been done correctly and the depreciation can be assessed. Unless there’s some historical, classical or competitive history attached to your car, you’re not going to find a large pool of buyers very quickly. In the dealership eyes, that car will be on the floor for a while. A modded car usually voids its warranty, and according to the CPA, using or operating the car in a way that’s not intended for its primary purpose - i.e. misuse or abuse - will also void the 6-month grace period. There’s a lot of risks attached to modded cars, regardless of whether those aftermarket components are high-end, and that will drag down rather than increase the value of your car at the end of the day.
Related: Know the Book, Trade, Retail and Market Value of Your Car.
The second problem with this complaint, and it's quite common among drivers is the use of “trade-in value” as the ultimate and final amount that your car should be valued at. Trade-in or book value is the national average value placed on your car when its traded in or sold in the marketplace. It acts as an industry guideline when assessing the value of cars, ceteris paribus, assuming all other things being equal. Meaning, the value doesn’t take into account the particular mileage, condition, accidents or market demand among several factors that influence the value of your car. In this person’s particular case, his focus on the trade value of his car might have actually cost him an incredibly good deal.
3) Despite Being Covered, I’m Stuck With The Bill:
One of the main complaints levelled at companies that offer extended warranties or motor plans on Hello Peter is being stuck with a huge bill despite being extensively covered. All that “peace of mind” that you paid for in the last two years for nothing, and after you’ve battled with your service provider for months they still won’t approve your claim. Usually, but not always, the problem comes down to the driver not fully understanding the warranty or motor plan contract. To be fair, even for the most experienced motorist, warranty or motor plan contracts can be highly confusing and complex. Bear in mind, not every extended warranty, maintenance or service plan will be the same so be sure to know exactly what components are covered, and more importantly, on what basis will claims be rejected.
I bought a comprehensive motor plan for my used vehicle. After 55,000kms my clutch had a problem, and upon assessment by the RMI approved technician it needed to be replaced. My motor plan has comprehensive mechanical coverage, that includes the clutch. But after lodging my claim it was rejected. I’ve only driven the car for 10,000kms!? I’ve been without a car for weeks and now I’m stuck with paying for the full R20,000 replacement!
In your contract, you will have clauses that will void or automatically reject any claim regardless of whether the problem was pre-existing or not your fault. Many, if not all, warranty or motor plan providers will have a clear clause that if the car in question has not been serviced by approved technicians in the regular intervals as per manufacturer's recommendation, the claim will be rejected. Usually, you will be granted a grace period of 1000kms or 30 days from the date of the required service, but after that, your policy will be suspended on the grounds that you haven’t stuck to your side of the contract. It may be the case that this individuals claim was rejected because the service book contained irregular service intervals.
Related: Denied Car Insurance Claims Explained
Additionally, certain components in your car have a recommended time of replacement by the manufacturer. Specifically, in the case of clutches, it’s recommended that it be replaced at 60 000km for most cars. If it fails before then, it would be regarded as failing prematurely, in which case the claim could be rejected on the grounds of abnormal wear and tear as a result of misuse or abusive driving.
Related: Know The Real Servicing Costs When Buying A Used Car.
Before signing anything, know exactly what components your plan covers and in what event will your claims be rejected. Don’t give your service provider even a slight chance to reject your claim, because they will find the most minute detail as a basis for non-approval. One such complaint highlights this. A driver’s claim for a faulty suspension system was rejected due to the fact that he upgraded his 15-inch rims to 17’s which were regarded as modifications, thus grounds for non-approval.
4) I Was Sold A Car That Was Involved In An Accident:
Probably any buyers nightmare is being sold a vehicle that’s done more kilometres on the back of the tow truck than on its own wheels. Thankfully, these cases are rare but this particular complaint takes the cake.
I bought a pre-owned vehicle from a reputable dealer. Before paying the deposit and signing the deal, we noted that the paint on certain parts of the vehicle looked like it had been resprayed. The salesperson assured us that this was a result of “glazing” due to old age, but the issue would sort itself out. We gave them the benefit of the doubt.
After signing the deal, upon closer inspection of the car we noted that the “glazing” had gone to reveal deep swirl marks across the paint. In some parts of the car, the paint has peeled off to reveal the prime coat.
We took it back to the dealer, and after much arguing agreed upon an assessment by an approved panel beater. Our suspicions were confirmed, the vehicle had been in an accident - which wasn’t disclosed to us - and even the panel beater was confused by the bad job done on the vehicle. From there, the dealer even disputed the VIN number of the car after the assessment had been done
Long story short, 6 months down the line of this legal tussle, we’re stuck with accepting the dealership’s offer to repair the vehicle as we can’t even cancel our contract.
In no circumstances should any dealer or private seller, sell you a car without disclosing the full correct information of the car in question. Selling a car without disclosing the relevant information and defects of the car is against the CPA. While there isn’t much information to go by, it’s unfortunate that the driver wasn’t able to cancel his contract in the end.
Related: The #1 Reason You Should Check A Used Car’s Accident History.
As horrifying as this story is, it’s difficult not to point out that this could’ve all been easily avoided from the get-go. For an experienced mechanic or motorist, one look at the car would’ve been enough to walk-away. By no means does that absolve the seller from any responsibility, but one piece of information could’ve saved the buyer thousands in legal fees and time. Always do a VIN number check on the vehicle in question before signing anything. Reference that information to the details provided by the seller. If there is even a slight discrepancy between the two sources - down to the original paint colour - raise a query and seek clarification.
5) I Was Held Liable For The Cost Of Repair Despite Being Covered By A Service Plan:
Not much of a horror story and it also displays one of the drawbacks of Hello Peter. You’d be surprised how often a complaint like this crops us, consumers not understanding the fundamental difference in coverage between a warranty, maintenance, and service plan.
I have a 3-year service plan for my car. I was told that my service plan would provide sufficient coverage to keep my car running in top condition and that I wouldn’t have to pay for replacements or labour costs, I’m now almost R10,000 out of pocket. After being told that my clutch was covered, I’m now being told that I would have to pay the full cost of replacing the whole clutch?! So after paying month after month to this company, they don’t even stick to their promise!
A service plan is wholly different from a warranty or maintenance plan, and I’m not sure of any company that advertises a service plan as “comprehensive”. What probably happened is the driver misunderstood what the service provider said and what exactly a service plan is. A service plan covers all the costs involved in the regular servicing of your car as stipulated by the manufacturer. Usually, that covers fluids, filters and spark plugs. Unlike a maintenance plan or warranty, the service plan doesn’t cover components damaged or worn through general wear and tear. In the defence of the company, what was probably said was that the clutch/brake fluid was covered - not the whole actual clutch itself. Regardless, you should always know what you’re signing before you sign.
Related: The Best Extended Motor Warranties For South African Car Owners .
There are pages and pages of complaints similar to ones posted above, and while some are truly horrifying, the majority of them would have easily been avoided. Don’t become another victim on Hello Peter, feeling as though your last resort is a complaints website. Understand the contracts you’re signing before putting your name to them. Take the time to do your homework before you’re wasting months of your time in disputes.
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Well written and informative. Well worth a read and sharing