When it comes to car shopping and sales, the word "lemon" doesn't refer to a sour yellow citrus fruit. Rather, a lemon is a car that has serious problems with its mechanics or structure. Typically, these problems make the car dangerous or impossible to use, though in some cases the word is applied to a car that has highly inconvenient rather than dangerous or technically fatal flaws. Lemon laws help protect consumers from getting a bad deal on a damaged car, and they place certain restrictions and conditions on what a seller can and must do when selling a car. South Africa's Consumer Protection Act, which was put in place in 2011, serves as a sort of lemon law that affects how cars can be sold.
What Does This Mean For the Seller?
The Consumer Protection Act makes it possible for sellers to sell a damaged car. This is good news because it's nearly impossible to sell a used car if it must be in perfect repair at the time of sale. However, the seller has to be aware of what condition the car is in and must be up front with buyers about what they're getting when they buy. Even when cars are sold in as-is condition, or voetstoots, the seller has to be honest about what's wrong with the car. This means that sellers cannot simply decide to sell their cars and use any means necessary to make the sale. The Consumer Protection Act specifically prohibits misrepresentation. This means you can't lie to a buyer in order to unload a car.
The Consumer Protection Act's Rules
As the name indicates, the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) is all about protecting buyers from scams and other harmful commercial schemes, including dishonest car sellers who are trying to make a lemon seem like a hot rod. However, it does provide certain parameters that are beneficial for sellers as well. After all, sellers are not the only people who can be dishonest when it comes to car sales. Here's an overview of some of the rules put in place by the CPA.
Limited Return Conditions
One part of the CPA that has gotten a lot of attention is the fact that cars can legally be returned within six months of the sale. In theory, this could be very damaging for sellers, but the law is more complex than that. In reality, a buyer can only return a car under certain conditions. For professional dealers, the buyer has to prove that the seller somehow lied or misrepresented itself of the car. For private sellers, the same rule applies, but there's also a provision relating to voetstoots sales.
Selling a car as-is, or voetstoots, is an option for private sellers under the CPA. However, thanks to the law's consumer protections, this doesn't mean that the seller can just unload a lemon. If you want to sell a car voetstoots, you will have to compile a thorough list of any issues with the car's structure or mechanics. Whether it's a damaged timing belt or a malfunctioning boot lock, sellers are required to inform buyers what's wrong with the car. If you try to get around this by leaving something off the list, the buyer has some rights when it comes to returning the car to you (or demanding that you pay for repairs). If the damage is discovered within six months of the sale, the buyer may be able to demand his or her money back. The idea is that shoppers who inadvertently buy a lemon can have some recourse after they discover that their new (used) car isn't as shiny and wonderful as they initially thought.
How to Avoid Problems
So, thanks to strong legal protection such as the CPA, South African car shoppers may have the ability to get if their money back if they end up buying a lemon. This means that if you, the seller, aren't careful, you could end up with a big problem on your hands. However, as long as you operate within the confines of the law and deal honestly with your buyer, you shouldn't have any problems.
Be Honest and Know the Law
If you are trying to sell a car, be honest about what's wrong with it. Don't try to make a tidy profit off a car you know is a lemon. Also, keep in mind that the CPA and other lemon laws don't totally strip the seller of any rights. Buyers can't force you to take the car back and return their money if they decide on a whim that they don't want it anymore. They also can't try to make you pay for damage incurred after the sale. Lemon laws are designed to protect consumers, but they also usually provide some sort of provisions to protect sellers as well. South Africa's Consumer Protection Act is no different. Know the law and let it govern your actions as you gear up to sell your car.
Overall, South Africa's CPA can be considered a lemon law because it prevents sellers from totally ripping off buyers. It gives buyers some rights when they feel their trust has been violated, and it places certain restrictions on sellers. But the law also provides protection for sellers who are honest and up front about the cars they sell, so as long as you stay honest, selling your car should be rather easy.