In an update about recently-introduced rules that allow new car buyers to service and repair their vehicles at any garage without affecting the warranty, Qatar’s Ministry of Economy and Commerce (MEC) said seven dealerships have so far complied to the directive.
Dealerships that fail to comply with the rules could incur a fine of up to QR5 million and confiscation of their profits, the MEC’s Committee for Competition Protection and Prevention of Monopolistic Practices warned in a statement yesterday.
Previously, most motorists were required to service and repair vehicles at their dealership, or their warranties would be voided.
Saying this amounted to a monopoly, the ministry told dealers to “give vehicle owners the freedom to choose which shops do maintenance work and repair their cars.”
As long as repairs and services are carried out according to the manufacturer’s technical specifications for the model of vehicle, any garage should be allowed to do the work without affecting the warranty, the MEC said.
The move come after customers complained about high prices for servicing and repairs conducted at the main dealerships.
The companies named by the MEC as having already followed the new directive are:
- Al Jaidah Automotives (Chevrolet);
- Al Mannai Company (GMC, Cadillac);
- Domasco (Honda, Volvo, GAC);
- Al Mana Motors (Ford, Lincoln);
- Al Ayseer Motors (Suzuki);
- Taleb Commercial Company (Daihatsu); and
- Ibin Ajayan Automobiles (Skoda, Seat).
Other dealerships have agreed in principal to adopt the new procedures, but have asked for additional time to comply while they “complete consultations with the factory,” the MEC statement added.
The ministry had ordered all Qatar vehicle agents to ensure that the new rules were reflected in their warranty policy documents, and that the wording of these were identical in English and Arabic.
They should replace any “vague phrases and abandon restrictive terms” in this paperwork, to “allow their customers the freedom to choose who is doing the maintenance and repair, without affecting the warranty,” the MEC added.
Previously, there had been discrepancies between the wording of policy documents in Arabic and English, it said.
The MEC’s action in June followed years of complaints by customers that they were being forced to pay what they felt were excessive costs for servicing and repairs at the main dealerships, rather than being allowed to choose a third-party garage.
In May, the MEC addressed separate allegations of anti-competitive practices by “clarifying” that any businesses with a valid license can import and sell vehicles, even if the manufacturer already has an exclusive dealer in Qatar, the Peninsula reported.
In what it said was a response to a high volume of complaints about dealerships generally, the MEC has taken a tough line on garages’ practices this last year.
Last August several dealerships and service centers were penalized for violating Qatar’s consumer protection law amid customer complaints of lengthy delays, arbitrary pricing and fake spare parts.
Meanwhile, the ministry has also repeatedly warned garages about selling new vehicles with minor repairs to unsuspecting customers.
In June, it sent a memo to all car agents and showrooms, reminding them of their obligations to obtain “a written endorsement” from customers that proves they are aware of all repairs performed on a vehicle prior to its purchase.
This followed a number of shut-downs of salesrooms because customers were buying cars without being informed that the vehicles had been painted or repaired to hide “bumps and scratches.”
At least one local auto dealer has said it is common for vehicles to get scratched during shipping, and then touched up while at the dealership.
He said the issue involving his business is one of misplaced paperwork, rather than customer deception.
Also, amid general complaints about poor customer service in Qatar, several service centers were penalized last August following customer complaints about poor after-sales service and long delays for repairs.