Listen Live

LISTEN: When a car deal turns ugly

People behaving badly in shops makes for great social media traffic, but resorting to violence and intimidation when you don’t get your way is a really ugly, childish trend. 

Car show room
Getty Images

LISTEN here or read the full article below.

In Consumerwatch, this week we focused on the case of a woman who signed a deal on a new car, realised afterwards that she couldn’t afford it, and having tried unsuccessfully to back out of the deal and get her deposit back, she returned to the dealership with some well-built male relatives, one of which literately took matters into his own hands. 

My source is the KZN operations manager of a motor brand who didn’t want to be named.

The story began when a woman signed an Offer to Purchase an entry level hatchback and paid R22 000 as a holding deposit.

This after lengthy negotiations with the dealership’s finance and insurance (F&I) manager.

Here’s the thing - an Offer to Purchase document is a contract which is binding on both the customer and the dealership. 

But a few days later the customer said she wanted to take the car without insurance, as she couldn't afford the car instalment, plus the insurance premium every month.

The F&I manager told her that wasn’t possible - car financing banks are entitled to insist that cars are comprehensively insured for the duration of the contact - as we discussed on this show last week.

Then the woman said she wanted to cancel the deal. Again she was told that that wasn’t possible, as the dealership had incurred costs in having accessories fitted and getting the car ready for collection,” the ops manager said.

And that brings us to that Saturday morning about three weeks ago, at an Umhlanga dealership.

The woman arrived with her male relatives in tow, demanding the refund of her deposit.

The dealer principle was out, but spoke to the customer on the phone, saying it was impossible for her to collect her deposit that day. 

And that’s when things got out of hand. 

Security footage shows one of the woman’s relatives, a particularly large man, picking up a metal queue pole and walking through the dealership with it, between the cars. 

Suddenly he stopped at one, and it looked as if he was going to smash its back window with the pole, but instead he used his bare hand to break it.

As you can imagine, that had the Saturday morning car browsers fleeing for the door, and the police were called to remove the troublecausers.

In the end, the dealership did refund the woman’s deposit and cancel the deal, despite it being binding on her.

That ops manager put it like this: “Sometimes it’s better to part ways with a customer instead of having such incidents happen on your showroom floor. And if a person is capable of behaving like that, you really don't want them as a customer.”

I get that, but on the other hand, it’s rewarding bad behaviour. Like giving a child what he wants if he has a tantrum. 

Because the fact is, as I keep stressing, signing an Offer to Purchase agreement is not the same thing as signing a quote - it’s a binding agreement.

Some dealerships let customers off the hook if they renege on the deal, but others - tired of having done all the paperwork, got the car delivered in the customer’s chosen colour, got it specced as requested and all the rest, only to have the person say they changed their minds or got a better deal somewhere else - are taking legal action to force the consumer to honour the deal.

And they can, according to Motor Industry Ombudsman of South Africa (MIOSA) Johan van Vreden. “We get complaints about this virtually on a daily basis,” he told me.

The time to shop around for the best deal, or to make sure you can afford the car instalment and the insurance premium is before you sign an Offer to Purchase agreement, not after.

It’s really not on to go all Thug’s Life on a business because you didn’t think things through before committing to something by putting pen to paper. 

If a bank is financing your car, you have to insure it for the entire term of the finance. So factor that in when you do your affordability sums. 

Show's Stories