consumer affairs bermuda

Disillusioned With Your Brand New Car

06/20/2008 | Are you disillusioned with your brand new car? Anticipated that you’d be paying off the purchase price for a while, but put back by the mounting costs of servicing all manner of electronic components just to keep it on the road? Wish you’d gone a bit smaller because your annual licensing fee is weighing you down?

You’re not alone. In 2007, Consumer Affairs investigated 707 cases, with the automotive industry comprising 24% of the total complaints received. Consumers have problems with all aspects of their automotive serving experience. For example, their problem is not covered by their warranty because they have not completed the scheduled vehicle service checks; the spare part they require is not available and will take several weeks to arrive in Bermuda; the vehicle’s performance has been consistently problematic; the service provider did not fix the vehicle’s problem; repairs are deemed exorbitant, and so on.

In fact, when consumers buy a new vehicle, they consistently consider the look and feel of the vehicle first, the price second, and its reputation for reliability third. Most often, they do not consider at all the cost of the vehicle’s maintenance and the issue of availability of spare parts.

As a result, they wind up phoning Consumer Affairs desperately hoping to receive assistance negotiating a minefield of problems surrounding their automotive service experience.

Whether you have a car already or are thinking of purchasing one, it is imperative that you recognize that vehicles today are extremely complex, comprising an electronic control module (ECM), which monitors the engine’s parameters such as speed, load, engine temperature, gasoline quality, air temperature and road conditions, as well as relying on a number of electronic sensors and devices.

A vehicle’s ECM necessitates that only a service provider trained and certified to perform service checks and repairs on your vehicles is used. Not only is this a prerequisite for maintaining your vehicle’s warranty, but also a necessity in ensuring that costly damage is not made by an unauthorized mechanic.

Regular preventive maintenance checks by authorized service providers are useful not only to maintain your vehicle’s warranty, but also to ensure peak performance of your vehicle and improve fuel economy, alert you to the future need for repairs or replacements so that you may budget for them, and to cut repair costs by cutting problems in the bud, before they affect other components of your vehicle.

Many consumers become extremely frustrated with service provider’s inability to have spare parts ready, at a low price, when their vehicle needs them. In fact, this is not always the fault of the dealerships. Bermuda is just too small of a market for it to be a priority for manufacturers overseas. If another jurisdiction requires a bulk shipment of a part, Bermuda’s order will be bumped in terms of importance.

It’s a question of scales of economy. A large dealership in California requiring 1,000 such spare parts is more urgent to attend to than a small dealership in Bermuda requiring ten of them. Not only with that California dealership receive their parts first, but they’ll most likely receive a cheaper price due to the volume of their purchase order. Plus, they won’t have to factor in shipping overseas like all local retailers do.

As for why a dealership doesn’t just order in more parts for future customers, I don’t need to tell you that real estate here is a precious commodity, and few have vast warehouses to store products in anticipation of future need. Moreover, it is guesswork as to how many parts of one particular car will be needed in that year, for different makes and models of each vehicles Dealerships generally use the manufacturer’s guide as to what parts should be ordered for a particular model.

But there are cases when a consumer’s vehicle experiences the same problem despite several repairs, conducted by a certified dealership, in accordance with the scheduled maintenance plan. In these cases, the consumer should insist on speaking to the manager or someone in a position of authority at the service or repair facility. Record the dates and times the problem occurred, the name and position of the person you to spoke to and what action was taken at the time. Keep all documentation, including invoices and statements.

The Sales of Goods Act as Amended 2002 sets out the law on sales of goods in Bermuda and whether or not they conform to contract at the time of the sale. Consumers may have the right to reject the goods and claim a refund, replacement, repair or compensation if they are found to be defective and the defect is serious enough to be a breach of condition of the contract.