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Insurers losing grip on car owners

Thuli Zungu Consumer Line
Sisa Mbangxa and his mechanic Nkosana Oka stands to benefit from the effect of these guidelines.
Sisa Mbangxa and his mechanic Nkosana Oka stands to benefit from the effect of these guidelines.
Image: Supplied

South African consumers will soon enjoy the right to take their cars to any reputable and independent workshop of their choice to have their cars repaired and serviced.

Gone are the days when car dealers used to make consumers believe that original parts could only be procured from the original manufacturer and that those acquired from independent workshops were inferior.

Even the insurance industry will no longer refer consumers to their preferred panelbeaters to avoid collusion and to prevent consumers' cars from being repaired with supposedly inferior parts.

The Competition Commission released draft guidelines for competition in the South African Automotive Aftermarket Industry for comment last month.

The public was required to submit their comments by March 16, however, the deadline has since been extended to a later date following the recent announcements around Covid-19.

Sipho Mthombeni of the Competition Commission says the new date for the submissions would be announced soon.

The objective of the guidelines is to promote principles and remedies that allow all reputable and independent workshops to have an opportunity to do services and maintenance work, mechanical repairs and motor vehicle repairs within the period covered by the motor vehicle warranty.

The guidelines will also increase consumers' right to choose where to take their vehicle with an affordable price.

Sisa Mbangxa - the owner of Siyakhanda Mobile workshop and a representative of African Panel Beaters and Motor Mechanics Association, and a member of the Right to Repair SA movement - said the guidelines marked victory for both consumers and small businesses like his.

He said panel beaters and mechanics started this association in 2009 when they realised that insurance companies did not recognise their service or allowed motorists to send cars to them for repairs.

Mbangxa owns a mobile workshop which provides mobile mechanic service in the country and hopes to go international.

His workshop does preventative maintenance and provides the service at the consumer's premises. His mobile workshop is registered, and aims to bridge the gap between formal and informal motor mechanics, he said.

He said once these guidelines were given the go-ahead, service providers like him would be allowed to service and repair vehicles without the consumer losing the manufacturer's warranty.

"We do it on site and the vehicle is back on the road," Mbangxa said.

He said he wanted to see previously and currently disadvantaged artisans in the automotive repair section playing a vital role in the mainstream economy of the automotive industry.

Right to Repair South Africa had taken grievances to the Competition Commission and the commission ruled in its favour.

Naturally, car dealers must repair consumers' cars in terms of their warranty, and the Consumer Protection Act provides for this, Mbangxa said.

He said consumers did not know that they buy the five years' warranty only to be bound to the same dealership they bought their cars from.

He said these draft guidelines would level the playing field between manufacturers, parts suppliers and workshops.

Mbangxa said even insurance companies would now be compelled to publish the names of their approved mechanics, workshops or service providers.

"In future, insurance companies will be compelled to approve any independent service provider who meet their standards and specifications to do service and maintenance work on the vehicle during the warranty period."

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