In most cases, 'as is' sales mean that the buyer is agreeing to unconditional ownership of their new item, whether it is an article of clothing, a piece of electronic equipment or a piece of furniture. Cars can also be sold as is, but in South Africa, there are a few rules that sellers should be aware of before jumping at the chance to unload a faulty or damaged car.
As-Is Car Sales
As-is sales usually allow car owners or dealers to sell a damaged car without having to be held responsible for any problems with the car after the sale is done. The idea is that the buyer accepts that they are buying the car in the condition it is currently in, or 'as [it] is' at the time of sale. While this can be a way for dishonest people to make a quick buck, it's not always a scammer's technique, and in fact, the as-is label can be a red flag for savvy buyers. This indicates that there's something wrong with the car that would require the as-is designation. Sometimes, sellers want to get rid of a car that requires more work than they're willing or able to perform, and these cars can be sold in 'as-is' condition.
Selling As-Is in South Africa
This may seem like a great way to sell a used or new car, but there are a few restrictions. First, only private sellers may legally sell a car as is in South Africa. Car dealers cannot sell as is, either for new or used cars. This means that individual South African citizens who aren't professional car dealers (or who are selling a car outside of their capacity as a professional car dealer) can sell their used cars as is. Under South Africa's 2011 Consumer Protection Act (CPA), though, as-is sales aren't as straightforward as they may initially seem, and they require some work on the part of the seller.
What Does 'Voetstoots' Mean?
Most South Africans are already familiar with the term 'voetstoots', but just in case you are not, you should be aware of this term when it comes to as-is car sales. Voetstoots is part of the Consumer Protection Act's official language, so it is a relevant piece of vocabulary for individuals who plan to sell a used car. In this context, voetstoots is simply a synonym for 'as is'. The same rules apply to voetstoots and as-is car sales.
What Does the Consumer Protection Act Say?
In order to legally conduct an as-is car sale under the South African CPA, sellers must provide buyers with a list of everything that's wrong with the car. This may mean that sellers have to take their cars to a qualified mechanic prior to selling the car. If anything is left off this disclosure list, which is part of the sales contract, buyers may have the right to demand a refund, replacement or repair within 6 months of the sale. This means that you could end up back where you started, with the car in your possession and the money you made from the sale paid back to the buyer. The buyer might instead opt to make you pay for a repair, something that is legal under the CPA.
Protection for Sellers
This may seem like a bit of a harsh deal for sellers, but there is some good news. For voetstoots sales, buyers can't suddenly just change their minds and demand their money back. They have to have a valid reason to return the car, and that valid reason has to be related to defects not listed in the sales contract. If you sold the car and told the buyer the car needs to have its timing belt replaced, they can't come back a week later and demand a refund because the timing belt is broken. Additionally, if the car develops a problem after six months, the seller can't be held responsible. And even within that 6-month period, the seller isn't responsible for problems that arise due to some action the buyer has taken. For example, you can't be held responsible for damaged incurred during a traffic accident.
Things to Remember About As-Is Sales
This part of the CPA is, obviously designed to protect car buyers from dishonest sellers. But it does protect sellers as well. Buyers have to have a substantial reason to return the car. They can't just send it back on a whim because they've decided they don't like the car's colour. Your main responsibilities as a seller performing an as-is transaction are to be aware of what's wrong with the car and avoid concealing any problems from the buyer. The more honest you are, the less chance you have of dealing with a return or repair demand. If you are up front with what's wrong with the car, you won't need to spend the 6 months after the as-is sale worrying about a return.