The Guyana Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) has received 27 complaints from customers whose vehicles were repossessed by their respective auto dealer.
In addressing this concern, its Chairman, Ronald Burch-Smith is in support of the move by auto dealers since the customers were unable to meet their payment deadlines but in some cases, the customers were half way through their payments.
Guyana Times understands that auto dealers generally take it upon themselves to have vehicles seized from the customer who fails to meet an instalment date. Some persons argued that this method was unfair since the customer is left with nothing in their wallets, even after making most of the payments required for the vehicle.
It is understood that while it might be fair for the auto dealers to repossess the vehicle, it leaves the customer out at sea, since all their payments are generally flushed away.
This move was however supported by the Chairman of the CCAC, who noted that the process is legal. He explained, “The short answer is yes, but the long answer is that it depends on the terms of the contract so the way a hire purchase agreement works is that you are really renting and when you (are) finished paying for it, that is when you own it”. He made reference to the fact that there is a need for a standardised contract between the two parties which is likely to address these issues.
It was however on that note that the Chairman pointed out that customers often brush aside the fine print in contracts and would place their signatures, not realising what they are signing to.
“People don’t actually read the contract to understand their obligations which they frequently rely on the form of assurances from employees who work at the auto dealer so (if) they are running short on their payments, if they have had an accident, (if) they are late frequently (and say) I’ll come next week, I’ll come next month but the terms say if you don’t pay, they can repossess the vehicles,” he explained.
Burch-Smith added that concerns were also brought to the attention of the CCAC as it relates to vehicular insurance. He pointed out, “There have been issues in the past about insurance, persons who are paying dealers for insurance were complaining that they pay expecting comprehensive insurance and when they actually checked it, they found that it’s part insurance”.
He noted the importance of customers making their own insurance arrangements so as to prevent such cases.
Among the things that are likely to bring order in this sector, the Chairman noted, was a standardised contract for all auto dealers or a revised hire purchase agreement.
“One of the things about the auto industry is that many of the dealers offer payment terms (and) the contracts aren’t standard and they are sometimes unfair…I think one of the things that would make a big difference is a revised hire purchase agreement that gives clearer provisions and maybe set standard terms so that everyone is regulated by the same terms,” the lawyer stated.
This is likely to bring order in that all auto dealers will be required to offer the same Terms of Reference to customers, which most would be familiar with.
Guyana Times was informed that while some dealers would be lenient with its customers who are unable to meet their due dates for instalments, others would anxiously await the opportunity to repossess the vehicles.