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Friday, June 6 1997

Car buyer taken for rough ride

EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE

June 5:The consumer court is hearing the case of a buyer of a Premier Padmini 137-D car who has alleged that he got a second-hand vehicle and demanded that it should be replaced. Both Premier Automobiles Limited (PAL) and its dealer refuse to do so citing warranty conditions.

Nanik Panjwani, the complainant, has also alleged that he has been receiving threatening calls and has been assaulted for filing the case.

Panjwani bought the car from Wasan Automobiles, Chembur, in February 1996. He said, ``I had gone to the dealer at around 2.30 p.m. on February 1, but they kept me waiting for hours and then finally told me that they would have the car delivered to my place. It came at 7.30 p.m., when we couldn't see it clearly. It was only the next morning when I was washing the car that I realised it had been extensively repainted.'' He immediately contacted Wasan again.

But for a long time thereafter, the matter remained unaddressed. "After several complaints," Panjwani said, "the manager at PAL C P Udhawant, a person from their legal department, S P Dalvi, and T S Nimhane came to my house to inspect the car. They all agreed that there were several things wrong with it, but said at the same time that they would not replace it."The team instructed the dealer to reach a "satisfactory finalisation of the complaints" (letter dated April 17, 1996, by Rakesh Mehta, PAL vice-president).

However, Wasan failed to act. Panjwani then obtained a certificate of inspection from an independent agency -- the Bombay Cycle and Motor Agency, Sion, (also a PAL dealer) -- to press his case.

The inspection report revealed that the car had a long list of defects, including problems with the engine, the transmission, the tin work and the finish. It recommended the replacement of a large number of parts as they were either improperly fitted or downright worn out, as in the case of the fan belt. The wiper motors also were missing from the automobile.

However, the dealer told Panjwani that the parts could only be replaced if he paid an additional cost for what it insisted on calling `repairs'.``Why should we pay for anything in a new car which should be in perfect running condition, with so-called quality checks done at every stage of production?'' Panjwani asked.

His pleas and PAL's instruction fell on deaf ears. The car was towed back to his residence, where it lies unused since he filed a case in the consumer court in August 1996. He argued in the court that the dealer should refund his money if the replacement of the parts was impossible.

This could not be done under any circumstances, said V Anand, a spokesman for Wasan Automobiles. ``Only defective parts, if any, and specified under the warranty terms offered by PAL will be replaced. For other repairs, the buyer will be charged.'' He further asserted that the BCMA had no authorisation to certify defects in a new car.

According to R M Kini, general manager (PR), PAL, never in the history of the automobile industry has a new car ever been replaced. ``Since it's an excise item and levy has already been paid for it, it cannot be replaced after being sold.'' He also said that only parts allowed under the warranty can be repaired.

Meanwhile, Panjwani and his wife, Madhu, claimed that they started receiving calls threatening their lives after the first hearing of their case.A police complaint was lodged and the couple was provided with protection every time they appeared for the hearing.

Panjwani also said he was attacked by two motorcycle-borne men on May 9 while he was returning home on his scooter.

The couple claimed to have received another call on Tuesday. The police said they have not been able to trace these calls since the exchange (560) has not been converted into an electronic one.

Wasan's spokesman Anand denied that his agency had anything to do with the threats.

The next hearing of Panjwani's case is scheduled for July 3.

Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

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