Car ombud adds extra service

Johan van Vreden

With years of experience in both engineering and automotive specifications as well as the legal field, motor industry ombudsman Johan Van Vreden is more than equipped to deal with the complaints lodged with his office.

It’s no surprise then that he has been in this seat since the office was first established 13 years ago.

The office was established following two years of research into disputes involving poor service by car-sales and maintenance companies.

The ombud’s office helps mediate disputes that arise between the motor industry and consumers as well as suppliers.

Disputes over unfair purchase and service agreements, exaggerated prices, unsafe goods and breaching of warranty contracts are just some of the matters dealt with by the ombud.

Since the introduction of an advisory centre for both buyers and sellers, the ombud’s office has seen a drop of between five and seven percent in complaints lodged against the motor industry.

Unlike before, consumers are now able to call the advisory centre’s hotline and speak directly to the office’s advisors.

The advisory centre is manned by a team of experienced case managers who provide telephonic advice to both consumers and motor industry businesses.

Due to the small number of advisors employed by the ombud the centre functions for just one hour each day during the week.

Principally the advisory system helps consumers make informed decisions when planning to lodge a complaint.

But Van Vreden cautions vehicle buyers or suppliers that lay complaints to come prepared.

“Do your homework. Before lodging a complaint, make sure that you understand all the elements of the original purchase agreement.”

He adds that as buyers of various motor vehicles, businesses are also protected by some of the ombud’s latest initiatives.

“Recently we developed a unique project called Transaction Protected Project to protect both buyers and sellers of pre-owned vehicles from unscrupulous behaviour,” says Van Vreden.

In terms of the initiative the ombud’s office can intervene in complaints involving used cars, car parts and other products sold by dealers that adhere to the ombud’s code of conduct.

This service is free to consumers, but a fee is charged to motor industry companies that deal with the office.

Although the office receives financial support from the motor industry, the code prohibits any one firm from influencing decisions made by the ombud, says Van Vreden.

“The code can be viewed on our website and those who wish to sign up for it can download it online.

It is a practice of safe service provisions and fair pricing,” explains Van Vreden.

A list of those businesses that are signatories to the codes can be viewed on the ombud’s website.

Should a dispute arise between a buyer and a seller, a complaint must be lodged within 14 days if the parties involved cannot reach an agreement alone.

Complaint forms can be downloaded online and submitted in writing, but only after complainants seek telephonic advice first from the ombud’s office.

, Johan van Vreden

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