No protection for new car owners

Consumers seem to be at the losing end when purchasing new cars with defects.

According to the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) chief executive director Datuk Paul Selvaraj, they have limited legal recourse whenever a problem emerges.

Selvaraj said based on the Annual NCCC Consumer Complaints Report 2013 there was a significant increase in the number of complaints in the automobile sector including workshop and inspection services.

“For 2013, NCCC recorded a total of 4,915 complaints with regard to the automobile sector.

“A large volume of the complaints received were in relation to new cars by reputable manufacturers with the majority being local carmakers,” he said.

After-sales service recorded the highest number of complaints with 48% out of the total while product safety contributed 25.3% and product performance came in third with 18.4%.

Selvaraj said the reported losses incurred had also increased from RM9.5mil in 2012 to RM22.1mil in 2013.

“Most of the complaints were on faulty components.

“NCCC officers contacted the authorised dealers but many did not want to replace the parts which were under warranty,” said Selvaraj.

He added that in some cases the warranties were limited and did not cover the defects.

“Sometimes repairs can take up to months and the complainant is not provided with a replacement car, leading to them suffering losses as they still have to service their loans,” he said.

Selvaraj added another major concern among buyers is the poor level of service as their problem remained unresolved despite sending their vehicles for inspection several times.

“If you have a new car with a gear problem, the dealer can fix it for free as it is under warranty. But, if the same problem can’t be rectified after four or five times, consumers need a lemon law that allows one to return the car for almost a full refund or get another car of similar make,” he said.

Lemon laws are American state laws that provide a remedy for purchasers of cars and other consumer goods in order to compensate for products that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality and performance.

Selvaraj said such a law would provide greater protection to purchasers.

Among the complaints include vehicles stalling, tyres exploding, anti-lock braking issues as well as gear box and automatic window malfunction, he said.

Selvaraj claimed that automakers operating in Malaysia continuously ignore consumer grouses.

“NCCC is strongly against maximising sales at the expense of consumers’ safety.

“Another safety concern is the use of substandard or fake parts as well as cannibalisation of parts from accident or damaged vehicles for use in existing vehicles,” he said.

Selvaraj added that grey areas in the Road Transport Act 1987 including overlapping jurisdiction of various regulatory agencies posed an additional problem.

He stressed that NCCC will continue to push for the implementation of better laws to protect consumers.

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