A few months ago, John decided to buy a second-hand car. He found one on Taiwan Yahoo auctions after several weeks of searching and contacted the owner in Taoyuan to go and have a look at it. The owner had an English-speaking friend who was kind enough to translate for John. When John arrived, he spent several hours looking the car over and test-driving it.
After he had looked it over, the owner suggested taking it to a garage to get it checked out and certified, and because John was in Taoyuan, he wasn’t able to bring the car to our local mechanic. He ended up taking the car to a mechanic that was recommended by the translator. The garage certified the car as being road-worthy and the negotiating began.
John was ecstatic when he brought the car home. He immediately went to his own mechanic and they weren’t able to detect anything unusual with the car. John spent exactly a day and a half driving around before it broke down. And I mean, it really broke down. He couldn’t even drive it home and had to have it towed back to our apartment. Apparently, the owner had neglected to mention that the online dashboard was faulty. It failed to indicate that the engine was completely f*$ked!
John immediately called the owner, told him what the problem was and asked what could be done to rectify the problem. He was neither rude nor demanding. The owner told him the car wasn’t his problem any longer. It was at this point that we realized we might have been scammed.
So, John took him to court. He has had to ask several Taiwanese friends to accompany him to translate for him, since he is dealing with a court system he’s not familiar with. At first, we thought the process was going to be simple. John’s first court appointment in Banciao went well. The judge admitted during the preliminary hearing that he thought John might have been scammed. The judge also indicated that the owner and the shop could be held responsible for the damages to the car because they had certified that the car was safe to drive and that the problem was not something that John could have detected on his own. The problem had to do with the electronics on the dashboard. He told John that he had a very good chance of winning the case.
John’s second court appearance was in Taoyuan. Since the car was purchased in Taoyuan, he had to have the car towed back before his appearance. At the end of the proceedings, the judge ruled that the owner of the car had to pay for the repairs because he had sold John a faulty car and had failed to mention the problem with the dashboard. And get this, the owner flat-out refused (in court) to give John’s money back or to give him another car of equal value. I think this is odd. How can you tell a judge what you will and won’t do? Isn’t that for the judge to decide?
After this outburst, the owner was asked to repair the damage to the engine. John was happy with the ruling and we thought the ordeal was over. Unfortunately, it had just begun. Within two days, the owner had phoned to tell us that the problem wasn’t with the engine and therefore, he was not obliged to fix it.
John went back to court again. This time, the judge asked John to bring a mechanic to Taoyuan to look over the car and determine the actual cause of the problem. Once this was done, John went back to court again. All in all, he’s had half a dozen court appearances in the past eight weeks. At the last hearing, the judge ordered the owner to have the problem fixed. Um, hello. This is the third time the judge has ordered the car to be fixed and nothing has happened. The final decision was this: If the problem ended up having something to do with the engine, then the owner would have to pay, and if it didn’t have anything to do with the engine, then he and John would share the costs. This seemed reasonable to us as we just want it all to be over.
Just today (eight weeks later), John got a call from the garage saying that the car was ready to be picked up. But, when he got down to Taoyuan, he found out that the owner had told the garage to go ahead and tune up everything on the car and then asked the garage to present the $12,000 bill to John!
John was livid. He’s the owner of the car. No one had any right to do extra work on the car without his permission. He managed to get the car out of the garage by telling them that the owner would be paying the remainder of the bill. However, at this point, he’s fully expecting to have to go back to court again.
We are sick and tired of having to deal with this. Actually, I shouldn’t say we, because John’s the one who has had to deal with all of this. I don’t often say that things would be different if we were back home, because I feel that we should learn to accept the differences between cultures, but this is just ridiculous! If we were back in North America, surely we would have been presented with a reasonable option by now.
Most times, I believe in”caveat emptor” or “Buyer Beware”, but just as there are laws protecting us from scammers like this in North America, you would think there would be such laws in place here to protect people from these kinds of situations.
The owner and the garage certified that the car was safe to drive and it isn’t. This simple fact should have ended all dispute eight weeks ago.
Moreover, we feel as though we have been taken advantage of because we are foreigners. Some of our Taiwanese friends who have tried to help us out of this mess have indicated that a case like this is extremely rare in Taiwan. Some of them have shown genuine embarrassment about this, and I want to stress that for the most part, I believe that most of the people we meet here are friendly, honest and generally willing to help. We try to extend these same courtesies to the people we meet each day. This isn’t a post to hammer away at all things Taiwanese. Nor is it a post to say one country is better than another. It’s simply a post to let you know that we are extremely frustrated with the system. It stands to reason that this system should be in place for everyone. I can’t see the point in dragging it on and on and on.
The fault we will accept was not taking a friend along at that very first meeting to help us negotiate. Perhaps if we had done that, none of this would have happened.
And my question is this: How does anyone get legal problems solved in this country when it takes so long to get anything accomplished? I’m completely blown away by the disrespect shown towards the judge and his rulings. I’m also surprised to learn that when a judge makes a ruling here, it seems to be completely worthless. Even if John does win this case now, he’s wasted so much time, energy and money that it will render what should be a sweet victory into something incredibly bittersweet.