Buying A Warranty? Read The Fine Print!

Buying A Warranty? Read The Fine Print!
 

Many people unwittingly void their car warranties by failing to have their cars serviced when they should. When it comes to add-on warranty policies, there are other “devils” in the fine print.

The Motorite maintenance plan covering the servicing and maintenance of Qaasim Mansoor’s 2006 Golf 5 GTI appeared to be very clear with respect to validity. The large print stated that it expired on December 31 2014 or when the car’s mileage hit 100000km – “whichever comes first”.

Perfect timing, he thought – by December 30 the car had done 15000km since its previous service in March, and was therefore due for another, and at 99802km, the odometer reading was just shy of the cutoff.

So Mansoor booked in the car at a VW dealership, but Motorite refused to pay for the service.

He was directed to Clause 5 of the Motorite Motor Drive contract, which states: “Please Note: Where a customer is a low-mileage user, and therefore only requires annual services, then only the total services relevant to the kilometre intervals required over the total kilometres covered by this contract will be covered.”

You’ll notice that unlike “Plan expires on 31/12/2014 or 100 000km, whichever comes first”, that clause is somewhat difficult to comprehend.

But frustrated as he was at having to pay R5800 for that year-end service, Mansoor drew comfort from the fact that at least he wouldn’t have to pay another R6000 for the replacement of a CV joint during that service, as it is a maintenance part.

But there again, he received a rejection letter from Motorite: “There can be no claim for the CV joint as the contract parameters have been exceeded.”

“I feel I’m being done down as the policy expires on December 31 2014 and Motorite refuses to budge,” he said.

When Mansoor bought the car in October 2013, with a mileage of 72000km – it was the previous owner who did the low mileage – it was covered by the balance of the Motorite plan, having been bought two years earlier as a three-year or 40000km extension.

Mansoor had the car serviced, paid for by Motorite, within a month of buying it, and again four months and 15000km later.

Then came the rejection of the December 30 service claim.

Responding, Motorite Administrators’ customer service manager Tristan Gunn said the claim for that service had been repudiated because “the maintenance plan had already fulfilled the total amount of services covered for the duration of the band of cover”.

He explained that whether you do a high mileage (servicing at 15000km intervals) or a low mileage (servicing annually), the policy is only going to cover a set number of services relating to those manufacturer-dictated mileage-based service intervals – that is, four.

Pity the policy wording doesn’t spell that out.

But Gunn admitted that Motorite was wrong to reject the claim for Mansoor’s R6000 CV joint, as the maintenance component of the plan remained in force until December 31. “The claims agent who administered the claim regretfully incorrectly repudiated the claim for that part on the basis of the plan having already expired,” Gunn said.

To compensate Mansoor for the “inconvenience” of that, Motorite decided to pay for not just that pricey part, but the service as well.

“Motorite sincerely apologises for the oversight and appreciates you raising this with us. We will address the matter internally,” Gunn said.

As for the small print, he said he’d raise my concern with the company’s product development specialists with a view to possibly making the clause in question more “pointed out”.

Warranty plans such as Motorite’s are sold by finance and insurance managers of franchised motor dealers, who should be trained to fully explain the terms and conditions to consumers.

Dennis Jooste, ombudsman for short-term insurance, issued a warning about mechanical warranty policies because of the number of complaints received.

Usually sold by second-hand car dealers, Jooste said the sale process often does not comply with the provisions of the Policyholder Protection Rules, which state that a direct marketer must provide the consumer with precise details of the cover, including the trip-up exclusions, waiting periods, penalties, excesses or restrictions.

“Usually the consumer completes an application form and is given a booklet with the policy’s terms and conditions, or is told a copy of the policy will be forwarded to them within 30 days,” he said.

Interrogate the small print.

Wendy Knowler

Need help? You can contact Wendy Knowler with your consumer issues via email: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler