Open letter to Sanral

I have decided not to buy an e-tag, since I resolved not to use toll roads. Sometimes one encounters a gantry which you cannot avoid unless one turns back against the traffic. In such a case I am willing to pay, provided I receive an account for my records.

But what has happened is that I received threats by SMS warning me that I am a criminal if I do not pay a certain amount.

I refuse to be blackmailed in this manner. Yesterday (20th January 2014) I eventually received an account from Sanral’s “Violation Processing Centre”, with a penalty added, since I did not pay before the 17th of January.

Now how the F could I pay an account before I received it? Nonetheless, I decided to pay the money by internet, but found that I could only pay it into Sanral’s “violations account”. This means that I have to confess that I am a criminal who is in violation! I did not violate anything anywhere.

This forced me to drive to the e-toll office in Cresta Centre, where I offered to pay the real amount minus my travelling costs to Cresta (see attached document). They refused, and were not even willing to allow me to pay the real amount without adding a penalty. What for? What offence am I guilty of?

Now I want to put it on record that I will not pay any account sent to me as though I had violated the law when I had not. Not just that, such an account is libellous to my good name; if I ever receive such an account again, I will sue for libel. And since Sanral’s attitude is to criminalise decent South Africans when they are innocent, I will also sue in their interest for an amount still to be determined.

I will pay when Sanral sends me accounts – and not when they come from Sanral’s Violation Processing Centre, and when they allow me to pay into an account that is not titled “violation processing”. I always pay my accounts after receiving them. So please stop acting like a bunch of Mafia criminals.

Dr Johan F Prins
Northcliff, Johannesburg

Dereliction of bar duty

When I read your Editorial in the January edition I was shocked and disappointed that the Johannesburg Bar Council, the body charged with the duty to investigate complaints against its members has, in the case you refer to, failed to do so for nearly three years.

I wrote a letter to the JBC asking whether the facts set out in your article were correct. I received an acknowledgement but I have still not received an answer to my question.

I have for many years sat on disciplinary committees of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society and cannot believe that the JBC has not yet finalised the complaint. I will let you know if I receive an answer to my question.

O D Hart

“If” indeed!Ed.

Merc slippery on engine flaws

Your exposé of just what Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) has been concealing (nose171) is a superb example of investigative journalism! Well done to you and your team! Most particularly we must thank you for highlighting the inherent defects evident in the Mercedes-Benz C230 K Sports Coupé. We have a 2004 model which has exhibited identical problems to those you have described.

We also find it most thought-provoking that in a letter to the Editor (in the same edition), another dissatisfied owner relates that he was quoted in excess of R23,000 by a Mercedes-Benz dealership to repair this well-known problem which, it now emerges, is a design flaw deliberately concealed by MBSA.

After previously enduring hefty maintenance charges for this preventable repair, we were recently quoted a similar amount by Grand Central Motors in Midrand to once again fix this latent defect on our Mercedes-Benz C230 K! (I must stress I have found this dealership particularly efficient and they have been a great support to me in my dealings with MBSA.)

In the end, I accepted a “goodwill” co-payment from MBSA – this done by them on a “no prejudice/no admission of liability” basis.

This entire saga has left me recalling a previously used (for some other brand) advertising slogan: “Makes one think, doesn’t it?” Time to take a careful look at Brand A or Brand B as our next car!

Alan Bolon

See further revelations in Bitter medicine in this issue.Ed.

• I appreciated your exposé (in nose171) headlined “Mercedes Profits from hidden design flaws”. I have just had a running battle with MBSA trying to get them to cover the cost of repairing my 2006 Merc C200 (with the M271 motor) after the timing chain and cam sprockets failed prematurely at 96,500km.

Nowhere in the service and maintenance procedures does the manufacturer require these to be checked, or suggest they might need to be replaced. This would indicate they expect these parts to last the lifetime of the engine.  

The initial quote for repair started out at R31,000 and as everything pointed to this repair resulting from a design flaw, I asked the local MB franchise dealer to put in a claim to MBSA.

Their first response was to reject the claim. I then got directly involved with MBSA via their Customer Relationship Manager, Steven Crittal, who was also mentioned in your January article.

All I got was little or no empathy and a lot of arm wrestling. When I challenged them to comment on the exponential wear on my timing chain and sprockets, I got not one word in reply. They always skirted around the main issue and kept talking about a “goodwill” payment and that my car was out of the warranty period.

Long story short, between MBSA and the franchise dealer they finally reduced my portion of the repair bill to R15,000. I, however, was not happy to pay one cent as I should not have to be spending any money on the timing chain and sprockets and certainly not at 96,000km.

I again approached MBSA, challenging them to tell me what I had done wrong in maintaining my vehicle (all services were timeously undertaken) that warranted only a 50% “goodwill payment”. Again, no comment about the premature failure of chain and sprockets and, in what looked like a standard letter,  they told me in a nice way to take a hike and if I was not happy I could take it up with the Motor Industry Ombudsman, which I will look at doing.

Is there anything you can do from your side to further highlight the arrogance of MBSA’s management and to warn your readers about the design problem that has manifested itself in the M271 motors? If not checked in time they run the risk of damaging their motor, which will mean a repair bill in excess of R60,000. The Merc owner must not expect their MB franchise dealer/workshop to automatically check this, as it is not a mandatory service/maintenance requirement and must be specifically requested.

This problem has been known to raise it’s head at the 50,000km mark but generally starts getting critical from 80,000km onwards.

They also need to know that, provided all services have been carried out on time, they should put in a claim to MBSA, but they must work through a franchise workshop. This of course will require quite a bit of wrestling, but when you are faced with a repair bill of between R30,000 and R60,000 (if
the motor is damaged) it’s worth the effort.

I however firmly believe that MBSA should be picking up the full cost of repairs, which I’m hoping will happen if enough people make enough noise.

I’m annoyed at their Big Corporation arrogance and will happily let you have copies of the correspondence between myself and MBSA.

I also have some photographs that were taken by myself and the franchise dealer (Maritime Motors in Port Elizabeth) which clearly show the shocking wear on the chain and cam sprockets.

I copied the CEO, Dr Martin Zimmermann, in my correspondence and asked his office to provide comment but, of course, I got not a squeak out of them.

Reg Fortune
Port Elizabeth

Your wish has been fulfilled. See Bitter Medicine in this issue.Ed.

Rica rascals

So MTN seems to provide “ready Rica-ed” sim cards to all and sundry (nose172). Would they then be an accessory to any crimes committed via one of those phones?

Pam Herr

Sun Valley

Watch it! SABC  dupes over-70s

On 3 December 2013, I reached the ripe old age of 70. Today in the mail I received a notice to renew my television licence for the full amount of R265. Now that I am 70, I should only be paying R74. My ID number appears on my TV licence and this clearly indicates my age! However, the SABC’s accounts people and their computer, are incapable of picking up this info.

They are now going to send me an affidavit, which I must sign at the police station to prove that I am 70!

I suspect I am not the first person to be completely amazed by this ridiculous state of affairs, nor will I be the last. I sent them a red-flagged email two weeks ago, pointing out the obvious, but have had no response.

Sue Felps
Cape Town

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Submitted by : Philip Curtis of Robertson on 2014-02-27 10:23:14
My, how Mercedes has changed!
I bought my 123 series 200 automatic in 1983, about a year after two of my colleagues had purchased the same model.
At about 20,000 kilometres both of their cars had problems with the timing chain mechanism, but both were still under guarantee and repairs were effected without charge.
Shortly before my vehicle was due to come out of guarantee I took it to the AA (they've changed too - in those days an AA test meant something!) and they informed me that my timing chain was noisy.
I took the car to Mercedes and they replaced the mechanism under warranty.
About 20,000 kilometres later (well out of guarantee by then), I noticed the noise again, so I took the vehicle to Orbit Motors, where I always had it serviced, and told them that, in my opinion, this could now be construed as a known factory defect.
They agreed and not only replaced the mechanism, but replaced it, free of charge, with a new double timing chain that was known to be defect free.
28 - odd years later, i am still driving that car - or should I say, my wife is driving it -I have to drive a bakkie!
You would think that they would have learned that the old approach was the one that kept me singing their praises for over 30 years, but they seem to have fallen prey to the ugly, modern philosophy of "profit now, and to hell with the long term consequences".


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