The old VW Passat had done 280,000km and cost R61,450 but it suited the new buyer just fine. Then, after just three days, it broke down. Her disappointment has been the public’s gain, however, as the dispute has led to a major new consumer protection decision. And there’s more: she gets her money back, the car dealer must pay a fine of R100,000 for its unlawful contract and "prohibited conduct", and there’s a warning of "significantly higher penalties" for future infringements. At first the outlook seemed poor for buyer H van Lill. After the vehicle broke down, she had it taken back to the seller, Western Car Sales in Kraaifontein, and asked for her money back. The dealer refused a refund and threatened to charge her storage costs if she did not remove the car.Several attempts at resolving the dispute followed, but the dealer simply ignored these, even the motor industry ombudsman’s ruling in favour of Van Lill. Eventually, she turned to the national consumer commission, which on he...

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