DEAD TO RIGHTS
Are tyre dealers honouring consumer’s rights? Well, if the industry’s standard of tyre knowledge is anything to go by, perhaps not…
These days tyre production is a highly technical process, and with leading manufacturers placing significant emphasis on quality control, product defects are extremely rare.
The underlying causes of most consumer tyre complaints are mechanically related (vehicle suspension and steering), user related, or a result of product misinformation. That is to say that most complaints result from poor vehicle and tyre care, or poor driver behaviour.
Interestingly, over 98% of tyre-related problems can be narrowed down to a single maintenance issue: the consumer’s failed attempt to maintain the recommended pressure. And when one considers factors like cold/hot pressures and variable tyre load indices, it’s not that this is an exact science anyway.
Of course, it doesn’t help matters that there’s a multitude of so-called tyre “experts” who are happy to advocate exactly what pressure is required with scant or zero understanding of tyre fundamentals.
It’s an industry imperative that tyre retailers/dealers possess superior tyre, fitment, and vehicle related knowledge in order to properly guide consumers in their tyre buying decisions. However, manufacturer-led training and dealer staff training has diminished as a result of cost pressures and a general lack of expertise. This compromises the dealers’ abilities to adequately service an ever-evolving vehicle park.
Recently, basic standards governing the entrance into the tyre retailer segment (which, among other things required good fundamental tyre knowledge) have become both marginalised and compromised. This is due to continuous manufacturer cost containment which has led to a lack of retailer tyre training. Consequently, the consumer may be a victim of an inadequate dealer or manufacturer knowledge base.
“the consumer may be a victim
of an inadequate dealer or manufacturer
Entrepreneurs in the retail trade are increasingly left to fend for themselves and the result is that the recommendations made are often incorrect, price based, or dictated primarily by the product range available to the retailer.
This is generally driven by the retailer’s franchise agreement which sees them - to varying degrees - controlled by a manufacturer or a buying group. The bottom line is that retailers often feel forced to put supplier commitments ahead of their customers’ needs.
“The bottom line is that retailers
often feel forced to put supplier commitments
ahead of their customers’ needs.”
So, what is the retailer’s/dealer’s responsibility to the consumer? Consumer rights are well documented in the Consumer Protection Act, this regulates the dealer’s responsibility to the consumer and thus promotes the correct buying decision. The Act binds retailers to a variety of consumer responsibilities which, if conducted systematically, will assist customers in determining the correct tyre purchase decision.
The following is a list of retailer actions, assessments and questions which need to be met prior to a tyre recommendation being made:
1. Every tyre tells a story, so a visual inspection of the tyres (that require replacement) is essential. This assists with making the correct recommendation and highlights any existing mechanical issues which may need to be addressed.
2. A discussion with the consumer determining the tyres’ application should ensue; this will further assist with recommending the right tyre for the job.
3. When fitting a full set of tyres it’s crucial that the tyres are aligned on fitment and periodically thereafter.
4. The retailer should ensure that the tyre load carrying capacity is suitable, taking into account vehicle usage, loads carried and whether the vehicle is used for towing.
5. The retailer should advise of the importance of tyre pressure maintenance and the relevance of cold and hot pressures.
6. The retailer should advise the correct tyre as per the client’s intended application.
7. Tyre conversions relative to tyre size and/or rim size changes need to conform to existing tolerance specifications.
A dealer should never relinquish the responsibility of supplying the consumer with honest factual information. Of course, it works both ways, it’s critical that the consumer supplies the correct information when requesting a specialised tyre.
Lastly, consumers should always deal with reputable retailers, supply truthful information regarding driving conditions, never down-spec the tyre requirement and consider the safety aspect of those four patches of rubber holding the vehicle to the road. Price should never be the only consideration when making a tyre purchase decision.