Hello CHOICE Community!
A month ago, my vehicle’s brakes failed right outside a Kmart Tyre & Auto service centre. I decided to go through them (rather than my usual mechanic) due to the convenience of being right outside. Unfortunately, this was an incredibly poor decision on my part as they screwed up nearly everything possible:
- the new brakes were mounted on the wrong way, with the leading and trailing ends reversed
- and when they tightened everything back up, they severely over-tightened the brake cable to the point where my brakes were dragging. The handbrake only needed three clicks of the ratchet before being far too tight to pull up another click, and when I jacked my car up, I couldn’t freespin the wheel at all.
This is a major concern as this was the original issue I paid them to fix. I loosened off the handbrake cable a few clicks in order to drive a bit safer and took it back to Kmart the next day. I told them what happened and admin guy apologised prefusely. I got my car back an hour or so later with the brakes fitted on the right way and checked over to ensure everything is all good, and they said everything was all good.
Well, everything was not all good. My brakes clunk whenever I reverse, and they have developed a screech/whistle/dragging brake noise in certain conditions. I am not happy that they screwed up two out of two times and want to use my usual mechanic to get my car right again. Am I able to get Kmart to refund me my mechanic’s repair costs? What process do I need to follow to ensure the best chances of a fair outcome and my money and sanity saved?
Using the ACCC Resolve a problem website, this is what the ACCC says:
Go back to the business and ask them to fix the problem
This may involve a repair (fixing the problem), replacement (compensation), or refund. If it is a major problem or can’t be fixed within a reasonable time you can choose. This is when the service:
- has a problem that would have stopped someone from purchasing it if they had known about it
- is substantially unfit for its common purpose and can’t be easily fixed within a reasonable time
- does not meet the specific purpose you asked for and cannot be easily rectified within a reasonable time
- creates an unsafe situation.
See our repair, replace, refund page page for further information.
If the business refuses to do anything about it, consider asking to speak to the manager or writing the business a complaint letter.
For help on how to write a complaint letter see our Writing a complaint letter page.
If direct contact with the business fails, you may wish to:
- report the business to your local consumer protection agency or the ACCC_
- lodge a complaint with your local dispute settlement authority (e.g. VCAT in Vic.)._
You may have been better to ring them as soon as the defective work was noticed and asked them to arrange a tow (at their cost) back to their workshop to repair the defective work. I would not rely on brakes poorly fitted being roadworthy or safe to drive.
This would have sent a strong message to them (an cause some financial pain) that their work was unsatisfactory.
You could have also asked them to replace the rear brake pads, if these brake pads were not part of the original service. As you would had driven some distance with them partially engaging, they would have worn more than if it hadn’t been defective.
If they decided to to anything other than make good the defective work, it would have been goodwill action of the business. Sometimes businesses do this to keep customer’s happy, especially if one is a regular customer.
Wow, what a nightmare experience. It’s worth noting that if there is a safety risk, to my understanding this is likely to be consider a ‘major failure’ under the consumer law. Whether it’s a major or a minor failure as @phb described above could be relevant in terms of the remedies you are able to access.
I can understand the impetus to go back to your trusted mechanic. Ideally, if you can negotiate with Kmart and get them to agree to provide compensation for this to occur, then that could be your quickest and easiest outcome. Under the law, though, if it’s deemed a minor failure, you must accept a free repair from Kmart. If they can’t offer a repair, or they don’t do so in a reasonable period of time, only then can you get the repair done elsewhere and ask the Kmart to pay the costs.
So ultimately you need to negotiate with Kmart, and hopefully they will do the right thing after repeated errors and compensate you in the preferred way you have mentioned. If that doesn’t go through, you’ll then need to begin a process of escalation. Let us know how you go as we’d like to see this situation resolved and if not we can offer further advice, and don’t forget there’s our CHOICE Help service that can also assist if you can’t get the desired result.
This would be a free repair to make good the defects resulting from the initial work?
Yeah, that’s correct to my knowledge - Kmart would need to return the vehicle into a condition that is fit for purpose meaning in this case to rectify those aforementioned errors. If there’s an argument about whether the fault is major or minor and/or there’s disagreement about the application of the remedy then that’s when @natural.thought will have to investigate further, possibly with some help or advice from one of the consumer regulation bodies.
Thank you both for your speedy and detailed replies! I’ve been very busy at university lately as it’s the end of the semester, so it’s hard to find time for everything. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction @phb, your contributions to this site are always high-quality.
I just rang the mechanic informing him of the Australian Consumer Law and explaining why his service meets all of the criteria of being a major failure. I told him I will also put this in writing and deliver it to his service centre, along with a basic diagnosis of what needs to be fixed by my usual mechanic (what Kmart will be refunding). He said he will escalate this issue to regional management, which I will follow up and include in the letter.
I will keep you guys posted on the dispute resolution, and alert the relevant authorities should Kmart cause any issues in abiding by the consumer law. Thanks again!
My local KMart has given great service over the years.
From experience KMart Auto are like any multi-location business. Some are good and some not so good, and as staff change the ones that are very good will vary over time. Staff turnover at independents is usually lower, especially the smaller shops resulting in more consistent quality over the years.
I got excellent service at the Greensborough VIC KMart Auto for a few years, but then there was some staff turnover and I was not as happy and moved on to an independent who has been very good.
I used KMart Tuggeranong several years ago to replace some tyres. They broke the lock nuts because they managed to lose the unlock tool, put different sized tyres on different wheels, failed to tighten the nuts adequately, and were all-up totally incompetent.
Just a bit of an update everyone (and @BrendanMays in particular), I visited the shop yesterday with my written letter stating the issues and the law and what action needs to be taken to fulfil the law. The manager said he will pass it on to his regional manager who will contact me Monday or Tuesday. Fingers crossed they care about being honest people!
The manager emailed me on Thursday confirming that I will be receiving the refund I asked for, and asked for my bank details. It’s been two business days and I haven’t received the money yet…
I’ll email him Monday afternoon if I still haven’t received the money by then.
(Fingers crossed he isn’t trying to pull a sneaky one on me. He’d be making a bad decision, if so!)
It can take more than two business days…it is likely that it will be processed by Kmart head office (rather than each individual store) and then sent to your bank account (which can take up to 2 business days).
Maybe if you do ring on money, don’t demand where the money is but more a general inquiry of when it will be processed from their end and you are likely to receive it.
Alternatively, if it has not been sent for processing, see if they will do a reverse on your credit card (where funds are placed against your credit card). This should be able to be done over the phone and should be a lot quicker. This option may not be available if it has to go through and be approved by say a higher manager/someone at head office.
I just sent an email with your recommendations, thanks @phb. If I don’t hear back today, I will call towards the end of business today, or tomorrow morning.
I think this has been discussed in another thread - and the point made that it shouldn’t (and in most cases, actually won’t).
Oh I forgot to update everyone on this issue, I’ve been far too busy lately!
The bad news was that after multiple emails and calls and promises, I never received the money. I sent one final email detailing that:
- they have now broken the law, and
- I am taking further legal action against them, and
- I need a written statement from the service centre manager and a written statement from the regional manager as to why they decided to lie to me, break the law, and go against their own word.
Well I immediately received a call from the frustrated regional manager saying the refund should have already been processed and sent, and that he will follow up with head office in Melbourne. I received a call from head office in Melbourne (I made it all the way up, woohoo!) shortly after confirming I will now be receiving the refund. A week later I received it.
It took over a month in total, but I have my money back and will leave appropriate reviews about their workmanship quality and business management skills.
Thanks everyone for your input and help!