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Defect in newly bought car? Here's what to do

Last updated on: December 13, 2010 14:43 IST

Defect in newly bought car? Here's what to do

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Pheji Phalghunan, Outlook Money


In a middle-class Indian family, a four-wheeler comes with a cost apart from the price of the car. It involves cutting down on monthly expenses or sacrificing one's travel plans or spending cautiously during festivals.

Buying a car is a dream for many. But this pleasant experience can turn into a nightmare if you find that your brand new car is defective.

Anubhav Gupta, a businessman from Faridabad, says that he had been shortchanged by his dealer. Gupta, who bought a new car for Rs 17.5 lakh (Rs 1.75 million) from a reputed automobile giant, was delivered a repainted car by the dealer.

On complaining, an unapologetic dealer did not bother to offer any solution, and actually abused and threatened Gupta. The car was delivered to him, in the late evening, on October 18, 2010.

On October 26, 2010, Gupta noticed that the paint on the bumper and the side mouldings of the car had begun to fade. He suspects that the paint used on these parts was different from the actual paint of the car.

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The damage, he says, could be the result of an accident and some shoddy repair job.

Normally, customers have to sign on a satisfactory note before taking delivery of a new car from the dealer, making it difficult to get justice for any complaint against a defect detected after the delivery.

The note, says Jehangir Gai, joint secretary, Consumer Welfare Association, an organisation that guides consumers to fight cases, "helps vehicle manufacturers argue that there are no manufacturing defects but minor problems, which were attended to the satisfaction of the consumer."

So, always check the car thoroughly before you put your signature on the note.

In case of a manufacturing defect, the customer needs to subject the vehicle to laboratory testing. In India, the Automotive Research Association of India, in Pune, is the only institution which does this test.

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Says Gai, "The fee for the test is very high, almost equivalent to 50 per cent of the price of the car. Moreover, all manufacturers have to get the mandatory approval from ARAI before marketing their vehicles, having a close and direct contact with the institution. Because of this, manufacturers often manage to get a favourable report from ARAI resulting in the dismissal of the complaint."

To be on the safe side, keep the manufacturer informed about any defect detected by you as the company is responsible for any inherent manufacturing defects.

The feedback form, available with the dealers, can be a tool for the customer to bring the case in his favour. A dealer's performance is judged by customers' feedback. If a customer gives unfavourable feedback, then it is not acceptable by the manufacturer and is likely to haul up the dealer.

The customer service cells of the manufacturers are also effective. They track every complaint closely as it involves the reputation of the automobile company.

If you face any problem while buying a car, you can contact the customer service cell and expect them to get your grievances redressed.

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Unfortunately, there are no laws which deal with the grievances of automobile consumers.

Says Gai, "The redressal mechanism has failed, so far, when it comes to grievances against defective cars. Also, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has observed 'it will be very hard on the manufacturer to replace the vehicle or refund its price merely because some defect (not manufacturing defect) appears which can be rectified or defective part can be replaced'."

If a defect is detected, the customer can ask for a refund or replacement from the manufacturer. But, since one will fight big automobile companies, one needs to have the perseverance and the patience. If the verdict is adverse, they might file one appeal after another to get a verdict in their favour.

If your car develops trouble within few months of purchase, instead of blaming your luck, take it up with the right people to get the trouble out of your way.

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Fact Sheet

1. Keep all the documents carefully.

2. Document every interaction with the dealer or the customer service cell of the manufacturer regarding any defect.

3. Don't sign on the satisfactory note without checking the vehicle. The customer should state that he is taking delivery subject to testing.

4. If the dealer refuses to deliver the vehicle without the customer's signature on the satisfactory note, he should inform the manufacturer. If possible, put the complaint in writing through snail mail or email (with proof of delivery).

5. File a consumer complaint if every other attempt to get a replacement or a refund fails.



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