When ’lodi’ becomes ’lugi’, where na you, DTI?

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer January 23,2019

In my 19 years of covering the motoring beat, I have encountered many disgruntled car buyers, some of whom I am friends with.

Often, I have been their shoulder to cry on, so to speak, and I listened to sad stories of how a long-dreamt-of car didn’t perform as expected, or had serious quality issues with one or more crucial parts.

Some of these stories had a somewhat happy ending, with the problem eventually fixed at the car dealership.

Still, others have had to go the distance by going to a government agency, such as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), to mediate in the case.

Last Nov. 21, I wrote about Nino Mendoza and his brand-new yet troublesome Japanese-made sedan, and how his woes seemed to continue when he filed his complaint against the dealership with the DTI.

(You can back-read this article in motioncars.inquirer.net by typing in “When big brother doesn’t have your back” in the Google search tab).

This time, it’s car enthusiast Reyv’s story I wish to share. Reyv, who also covers the motoring beat, owns several cars.

One look at his garage will reveal that the family is loyal to an American brand. At one point, Reyv said, he and his family owned nine vehicles of the same carmaker.

Reyv said that more than three years ago, he bought what he thought was a “very reliable SUV” from this carmaker, basing his assumption on the fact that he drove the same model when he was still studying in the United States.

Alas, that SUV he bought here gave him one massive headache instead.

His friends who owned the same model didn’t have a problem with theirs. What supreme irony it is, then, that someone like Reyv, a die-hard fan of the brand, would end up buying something that was more akin to punishment rather than a reward for being loyal.

He said his American SUV’s sunroof leaked. A few weeks later, it was followed by a footbrake that wouldn’t engage.

The stabilizer link gave out next.

And then his engine started making weird, loud noises. Diagnostics at the dealership couldn’t pinpoint the cause.

After a year of repeated inspections, the problem was fixed. Then the timing gear acted up.

It’s hard enough to deal with one breakdown after another. What aggravated Reyv’s problems was the unavailability of parts from the dealership.

It came to the point that Reyv had to import the needed parts himself.

Unlike Nino, who approached the DTI for state assistance, Reyv was loath to seek relief from the department. “I don’t think they can help me any more with my problem,” he said.

At this time, he said he still believes that his long-time relationship with the dealership would be enough to pull him out of this rut.

I can neither applaud nor denounce Reyv’s decision to not approach the DTI at this stage of his tedious journey as a consumer/customer of that dealership.

When I asked him why he wouldn’t seek help from the DTI, he replied: “My wife’s grandma has a consumer case that is still pending since 2004.”

In case Reyv does decide to pack his woes and unload them down at the DTI office, here’s the reality he’ll be facing, figures below supplied by DTI:

During the past three years, the department has received 1,384 complaints related to cars. Of these, 45 percent have undergone the mediation process, wherein parties were able to reach a solution or a settlement.

182 (13 percent) were elevated for adjudication (in other words, gone to court), while 139 (10 percent) were endorsed to the appropriate office.

The rest of the complaints (32 percent) have either been dismissed due to the lack of information, or archived because of the complainants’ lack of interest or indecision to pursue the cases further.

Looking at his chances vis-à-vis DTI’s numbers, Reyv would be nearly two times more likely to have his complaint mediated rather than adjudicated or passed on to another office.

He would also have a 68 percent chance of having his complaint acted upon (45 percent mediation or 13 percent adjudication or 10 percent endorsement to another office) compared to the remaining 32 percent chance of his complaint being dismissed or archived.

So, with a batting average of nearly 70 percent, the DTI is doing a pretty decent job of acting on the complaints filed by the car-buying public, the key words here being “acting on.”

Of course, it’s a number that leaves a lot of room for improvement, and doesn’t yet indicate the length of time it takes for a complaint to get a result.

Case in point: I’d like to go back to Nino Mendoza’s case. To give you an update, the DTI finally did respond and supplied my requested information more than two months after I first asked for it.

Nino shared with me the department’s decision based on the mediation proceedings: DTI has ordered the dealership/respondent to “return the amount corresponding to the payment made by Complainant less the amount corresponding to the depreciation of the subject vehicle computed from the time it was purchased until it was last brought for repair. This amount shall be determined by a Certified Public Accountant to be chosen by Complainant and the professional fee shall be paid by the Respondent ….”

For Nino, it’s a “hahahuhu” moment. He’s going to get his money back, but not all of it.

Depreciation sucks, but that doesn’t mean Nino is about to throw in the towel. He says he’ll file an appeal with the DTI against that diminishing value thing.

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