Consumers want to know what they are getting for their hard-earned cash, especially when it comes to high-value items such as cars. “And why shouldn’t they,” says Gunther Schmitz, Chairman of Right to Repair South Africa. “We believe there needs to be transparency when it comes to pricing of parts, service plans, and warranties. When consumers have all the facts, they are in a better position to make a choice.”

Schmitz says there needs to be a mechanism in place where extended service plans and warranties should be sold separately so consumers have a clear understanding of the costs involved. “If it’s a good deal and a competitive offering then the consumer will go for it. We believe this will open up the industry for fair competition and ultimately give consumers choice,” he says. 

The same should apply to the pricing of parts. “For years consumers have been led to believe that original car parts can only be obtained from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). In reality probably 99% of the parts required for repairs (excluding accident repairs) and maintenance are manufactured by Original Equipment Suppliers (OES) like Bosch, Mahle, GUD etc. Consumers need to know that OEMs buy these same parts off the assembly line, by commission, and sell them to the aftermarket repackaged with their logo on them, which obviously has an effect on the end price,” explains Schmitz.

Through warranties, the new-car market in South Africa dictates the use of original parts. “In many first-world countries, this is a thing of the past and consumers are free to use aftermarket parts in their vehicles without affecting the warranty.”

Along similar lines, the Right to Repair campaign is calling for transparency when it comes to access to information, tools and training so the aftermarket can be well-equipped to service cars in or out of warranty. “Independent workshops are more than happy to buy this information. Right now, however, this is not an option in South Africa. In Europe, for example, this information is housed in a data cloud and workshops have access through an interface on a subscription basis. The information also includes essential service information from the OEMs so mechanics have all the tips at their disposal.”

Schmitz says while change is never easy, it is essential. “We agree that it needs to be handled responsibly to ensure the consumer is the ultimate benefactor. We can’t, however, let the fear of change inhibit progress. We are lobbying for this change so consumers and the aftermarket workshop businesses have the valuable information that for too long has been kept concealed.”

“So far we are very positive about the work done by the Competition Commission and continue to believe that the code of conduct, due to be published soon, will encourage much-needed progress,” concludes Schmitz.


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