Car repairs and insurance, plus event reimbursements – “Watch-outs of the week” by consumer journalist Wendy Knowler

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In this weekly segment of useful bits of information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarizes the news you can use:

Beware of the “designated driver” clause in car insurance policies

Did you know that some car insurance policies have strict terms dictating who can and cannot drive your car?

Most insurers focus on the regular driver – the person who drives the car most often – and base the premium on that person’s risk profile: they don’t require the names of all the other people who might drive the car. car for a claim to succeed.

They may charge an additional deductible if the occasional driver was under 25, but the claim will not be rejected on the grounds that their name does not appear on the policy. But some policies have such strict “designated driver” policies.

In the case I am investigating, the policyholder’s 37-year-old son-in-law was motionless at a crossroads when he was struck from behind by another motorist and his claim was dismissed due to this clause — the name of the man not appearing in the designated pilots section.

The policy reads: “If a driver is not named on the schedule, there will be no cover for loss.”

This is all the more problematic since it is completely normal for a third party to occasionally drive your car, an employee of a car dealership during an interview, for example. The risk of having such a strict driving policy is high, as this family has just discovered. Rather opt for or switch to a less prescriptive one.

Event cancellations – do not accept a “no refund” fob off

In the latest newsletter from Consumer Goods and Services Ombud, there’s a story that provides wonderful advice – ammunition – for others in the same situation. It is titled: “Is there a non-refundable deposit?”

It reads: “After three failed attempts to have the wedding of their dreams, only to have their hopes dashed by Covid-19, a couple have decided to call off their wedding altogether.

“After booking and depositing a deposit at the venue in December 2019, the happy day was initially scheduled for May 30, 2020, then March 2021 and finally, set for November 26, 2021.

“In January 2021, when uncertainty weighed on the rollout of the vaccine in South Africa, the couple informed the provider that they would rather cancel than risk another postponement.”

Believing that 11 months’ notice was reasonable and fair, the couple requested reimbursement of their 30,674 rand.

The supplier refused, prompting them to turn to the CGSO for help.

“We engaged the supplier, who shared their calculations, explaining that they would only consider a refund if the couple booked the venue.

“We referred the supplier to Article 17 of the Consumer Protection Act (LPC), which states that consumers have the right to cancel reservations in advance subject to payment of reasonable cancellation charges. and that the circumstances must be taken into account, in particular whether the notice period is long enough for the service provider to find a replacement reservation.

“As a result, we advised the supplier that their cancellation policies were against the CPA and recommended an amount of R22,580 as a fair refund.”

The venue refused to pay the reduced amount on the grounds that it included a ‘non-refundable’ deposit of R5,000.

“We explained that under the terms of Article 51 of the CPA, contracts drawn up by the supplier cannot contain terms and conditions contrary to the provisions of the CPA because the law will prevail.

“Put simply, you cannot contract outside the law.”

In other words, and this applies to all contracts, even if you have signed an agreement, the CPA prohibits contracting out or waiving certain consumer protections under this legislation.

Luckily, the company involved eventually relented and refunded the couple R22,580.

This is a great case study to refer to if a service provider is harming you in the same way. You can find it by going to cgso.org.za, click Download, then Newsletters and it’s the one at the top of the list — Quarter 1 2022.

Do you know your rights when it comes to repair estimates?

Patricia wrote to me about a sticky situation her son got into with his car.

“He asked a local repairman in Pretoria to check the car’s gearbox.

“The owner removed the gearbox and then gave us a repair estimate of R23,000.

“We don’t want him to continue the job, but now he refuses to release the car until we pay a ‘release fee’ of R10,000.”

Other shops have told them that R2,000 is fair as a “strip, quote and release” fee.

Obviously, there is work involved in producing such a repair estimate and business owners have the right to pass them on to the customer. But advance disclosure is key.

The Consumer Protection Act covers this in detail. In short, this mechanic was obliged to inform the young man of his costs for refusing an estimate; tell him exactly how much it would cost and get his approval before you open the hood of the car.

This is to prevent service providers from ransoming consumers with outrageous “release” fees, like this mechanic did.

Companies are also prohibited from deviating from an initial quote amount without first obtaining the customer’s consent.

Protect yourself from such bandit behavior by asking specific questions about a company’s quote process before handing over your property – especially quote rejection or “release” fees. And make sure he’s committed to writing.

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GET IN TOUCH: You can contact Wendy Knowler for advice on your consumer issues by email: [email protected] or on Twitter: @wendyknowler.

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