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What you can do when a petrol station fills your car with the wrong fuel

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In a recent discussion on 702, Wendy Knowler provided insights into what options consumers have when a petrol station fills their car with the wrong fuel and damages it.

Filling a vehicle with the wrong fuel can have catastrophic results, and usually ends up getting you a hefty service bill.

According to Knowler, only 20% of the cars on South Africa’s roads are under warranty – but even with a warranty in place, the situation could still not go your way.

What you can do

Knowler quoted a recent case where she assisted a Western Cape resident whose petrol-engined VW was filled up with diesel.

The service station owner agreed to pay for the required repairs to the car, but only if they were done by a mechanic of his choice.

The vehicle owner said he would prefer someone impartial, such as a VW dealership, but the service station owner said this was too expensive.

In response to this situation, Knowler said the vehicle owner did not have a right to demand the vehicle be taken to VW for repairs as it was out of its warranty.

Knowler relayed the words of Mark Dommisse, the chairman of NADA, where he said that if you have to repair an out-of-warranty vehicle, you should look for a service station with Retail Motor Industry (RMI)-approved mechanics.

However, he said that if a vehicle that is under warranty is filled with the wrong fuel and the owner takes it to an independent service provider (ISP) to be repaired, the vehicle manufacturer has the right to cancel the warranty later on should any problems arise due to a bad repair by the ISP.

Therefore, Knowler recommends insisting on an RMI-approved mechanic if your car is out of warranty – preferably one that specialises in that brand of vehicle.

She also said the Consumer Protection Act makes companies accountable for the negligence of their employees, regardless of any warning or disclaimer signs that might be put up or whether their insurance covers them or not.

The service station must therefore pay for the repair of the vehicle in most instances like this.

To avoid the situation, Knowler said consumers should always pay attention to what the station attendant is doing – and look at their slips after filling up their cars to make sure the right fuel was put in before pulling away.

Call to change how petrol prices are calculated

This case follows much public attention on fuel in South Africa, following steep increases in the price of petrol and diesel in recent months.

As a result, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in November 2021 announced that it will no longer publish the daily fluctuations of fuel prices to the public, as reported by BusinessTech.

With it, the Central Energy Fund ceased to publish the mid-month fuel price updates geared at preparing consumers for the upcoming change in petrol prices.

These announcements also followed the addition of the Slate Levy to the fuel price calculation in September 2021, and a burst through R20-per-litre for petrol for the first time in December 2021.

After the announcements, the department also published its first ever erroneous public fuel price adjustment announcement.

This led to several organisations calling on the government to change the way South Africa’s fuel prices are calculated.

Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana said the four main options for changing the calculation currently include a complete review, deregulation, a petrol price cap, and a halt on tax increases.

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