Dealing With The Taiwanese Court System

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.

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian expat who has been living abroad in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. My husband and I have owned our own business in Taiwan since 2012. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on on Twitter @globetrotteri or on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/carriekellenberger/.

29 thoughts on “Dealing With The Taiwanese Court System

    […] With The Taiwanese Court System Posted in July 3rd, 2008 by in Uncategorized Dealing With The Taiwanese Court System John spent exactly a day and a half driving around before it broke down. And I mean, it really […]

    Mark Forman

    (July 3, 2008 - 11:45 pm)

    Carrie-hate to say this,but as the Taiwanese say,”you are paying for your tuition.” Here in Taiwan I have heard of many cases of civil judgement that the party judged guilty refuses to pay or tells the court ok and then just ignores. I’,m surprised your friends indicated to you how rare this is?? Actually, this is the reason why so few Taiwanese pursue these type cases in court and try to work out directly or through intermediaries. I feel your pain, but just sayin. It is always best to be careful and try to work things out with concerned parties anywhere. If one of the parties is a jerk-makes it real tough.

    Carrie

    (July 4, 2008 - 12:44 am)

    Hi Mark,
    I meant to say that that my friends told us that having someone deal with us in this manner is rare. It wasn’t the court system they were referring to, but the owner that scammed us in the first place.

    I simply can’t believe that someone would be judged guilty and then refuse to pay. What then, is the point in having a judicial system in place if people pay it no heed?

    Mark Forman

    (July 4, 2008 - 12:57 am)

    I agree-the court system here highly irrelevant if they don’t enforce their judgments but I’ve known about this for many years. Anyhow, I feel ya,

    Fili

    (July 4, 2008 - 3:19 am)

    How unlucky.

    It’s not enough that this is happening to you, it’s happening in a culture that you still don’t fully understand and are able to interact with, which makes it even more difficult to handle.

    Honestly, I don’t think this would have been much better anywhere else, but that’s a futile discussion since we don’t have anything to compare it with.

    Either way, I hope it works out.

    MJ Klein

    (July 4, 2008 - 4:39 am)

    people here resolve differences with violence. since you’ve seen that there really aren’t any consequences to worry about, just have John take a crowbar and smash a few windows in that guy’s car. he’ll come around.

    David on Formosa

    (July 4, 2008 - 5:26 am)

    I certainly understand that you might feel very upset and frustrated. It provides a good example of the failings of the Taiwanese legal system.

    The first point is that there is often a large gap between the way the law is written and the way it is enforced or practiced in Taiwan. That said “rule of law” in Taiwan has improved a lot and is well ahead of some other countries in the region. But still it is far behind the standards of North America or Europe.

    The second point is the concept of qing li fa (情理法). Maybe some of your Taiwanese friends have mentioned this to you. In essence the way of dealing with disputes is first to use emotion, then reason and finally the law.

    I do hope you can get some sort of justice and compensation in the end.

    Carrie

    (July 4, 2008 - 2:45 pm)

    Thanks Fili.
    These are my sentiments exactly. Perhaps this is a culture we will never fully understand, but we want to give it a try.

    We thought we were handling things properly by dealing with the situation in the same way we would have handled it back home. We avoided settling out of court because we are foreigners and we felt we wouldn’t know how to deal with the situation properly. It never crossed our minds that going to court would actually end up working against us.

    Carrie

    (July 4, 2008 - 2:47 pm)

    MJ,

    Ha! If only that would resolve the situation! 🙂 It’s pretty sad to admit that there’s no way we can win.

    Carrie

    (July 4, 2008 - 3:06 pm)

    Hi David,

    Thanks for pointing this out. This is another (of many of am sure) aspect of Taiwanese culture that I’m unaware of. Everyday I try to gain a better understanding of this world we live in, but we just haven’t been here long enough to understand the finer details.

    John didn’t really want me to write about this, but I’ve opened it up for discussion because I want to understand why. So far, I haven’t been disappointed and it has been interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

    cfimages

    (July 5, 2008 - 5:02 am)

    Contact Apple Daily. Make him lose face by having his photo splashed over the front page of the newspaper describing him as a cheat.

    Joanna

    (July 5, 2008 - 11:12 pm)

    Wow Carrie this is a terrible story. However, $12,000 later it is good to see the case is resolved. Now John has a car that is running and you two can put this mess behind you and go for some sweet rides. Road trip anyone?

    Nomadic Matt

    (July 6, 2008 - 12:41 pm)

    I think it has nothing to do with the culture- there’s bad people like that in every culture.

    what shocks me is his total defiance of the judge. I mean it seems there are some consumer protections there and everyone agrees you’re right but this guy is giving a big F U to the judge.

    I agree with the other posters- shame him. It’s the way to do things in asia! 🙂

    Carrie

    (July 6, 2008 - 2:42 pm)

    Hi Craig,

    Hmmm…now there’s an idea. That’s something I could live with!

    Carrie

    (July 6, 2008 - 2:45 pm)

    Hi Joanna,

    We’re hoping this is the end of it, but I have a feeling we’re going to hear from them again once the garage gets in touch with Mr. Su about the rest of the bills. John paid a fraction of the bill and told the shop he would be back to pay the rest and he never went back. I think it’s going to end up backfiring on us.

    We had the car out today. Personally I think the damn thing is cursed, but after today, I can tell that John is humming and hawing over whether to sell it or not. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

    Carrie

    (July 6, 2008 - 2:48 pm)

    Matt,

    I agree. There are bad folks everywhere. It’s a downer though when you expect the law to be there to protect you and it’s not. I like Craig’s suggestion though. It would be great to end this on some sort of a positive note. However, I’ve never been the type of person to seek revenge, as much as I wish for it. We’ll probably just let it go and chalk it up as experience.

    james

    (July 7, 2008 - 12:26 pm)

    The only difference here is that in the West the court would have told you to bugger off! afterall you have no proof beyond reasonable doubt that you were scammed. Sold as seen! you bought a pup. it’s noones fault but yours, and certainly not Taiwans.

    The fuss you are creating makes me cringe, (you complain about it to it to your Taiwan freinds, and they seem embarrassed – embarrassed they have freinds like you two!).
    Taking the car from the garage without paying is illegal! the mechanics have to paid. I hope someone from the force reads your post and does something about you

    You couldnt cut it in Canada, and now you are ruining Taiwans image of westerners for everyone else

    MJ Klein

    (July 7, 2008 - 1:08 pm)

    james, you are way off. the owner had his buddy “certify” the car as drivable. that kind of scam is very common in Taiwan. people make it inconvenient for you, so you end up following their suggestion – in this case, the former owner’s pal who owns a garage. the western courts would have thrown the book at them because the term is “conspiracy to commit fraud.”

    have you ever been more than 20KM away from home?

    Carrie

    (July 7, 2008 - 2:04 pm)

    Hi Guys,

    Meet my friendly on-line bizarro, James. This is just one of the MANY random comments he leaves for me on a regular basis. This recent comment of his is actually quite tame compared to his last comments. He hasn’t been around in awhile. I thought he’d found some other poor person to bother, but I see I’m still his preferred target. I’m not sure what I’ve done to offend him, and personally I don’t care. He’s doing a fine job on his own of giving his fellow countrymen a bad name.

    I actually posted James’ last comment on Twitter. He hoped I would die from being ill a few months ago and made references to our upcoming wedding. Anyways, I’ve decided to leave this up rather than deleting it. As usual, his comments are biased and uneducated.

    James, why don’t you work on your reading comprehension skills? Quit hiding behind your mommy’s apron strings and leave your website address so we can return the favor.

    smythe

    (July 8, 2008 - 9:50 am)

    I agree with James. This is not a criminal matter and only the civil courts would deal with this in the West. And it would cost alot more than the cost of this car

    If you wanted guarantee’s you should have bought a new car like everyone else.

    Just becuase you are westerners doesnt mean you should pay less and get better treatment than the natives

    Carrie

    (July 8, 2008 - 11:08 am)

    James/Smythe (Is this James writing as Smythe?) I’m going to treat it as such because you’ve left nothing to prove otherwise and I’m tired of getting these threatening and abusive emails from you.

    People like you drive me crazy. You’re quick to pass judgement, yet you don’t reveal your identity. At least the rest of us make a stand when we state our opinions. This comment of yours leaves no doubt in my mind that you’re either a friend of James or you’re actually James. Again, I can’t tell because you haven’t left a website address attesting to your identity like everyone else has.

    I would ask you to read my story again but it’s not going to make any difference because you’ve already labelled us as bad people. If my website pisses you off so much, just don’t read it. I certainly don’t need or want you or your friends dropping round to intimidate or throw insults at me. This will be the only time I respond to any of your hateful and racist remarks towards John and I.

    In North America, when you purchase a second hand car, the car is safetied and certified by the owner and a local garage first. That way, if anything goes wrong with the car, measures can be taken to fix the problem.

    We were neither rude nor demanding in our dealings with the owner. And I might add, the courts agree with us. In fact, the first TAIWANESE judge we spoke to about this encouraged us to pursue this matter in court. He was the one who labeled this as a scam. It wasn’t us. At the beginning, we hoped there was a way to settle this amicably, but the owner refused to deal with us.

    Our Taiwanese friends have been trying to help us in any way the can. Never once have they said that we are wrong in our actions. They have only expressed dismay at the fact that someone would take advantage of us in this way. No one wants to go to court. We certainly don’t. It’s a last resort after repeatedly trying to deal with the owner one-on-one. Our friends have stood by us in our decision and have encouraged us to pursue the matter until something results from it. At the moment, at least we have the car back. For the past eight weeks, it’s been sitting in a heap in a garage in Taoyuan. At least now we can drive it.

    And, I might add, we are truly grateful to our friends who have taken time off work and who have made numerous phone calls on our behalf. Their generosity and kindness is a blessing.

    We haven’t ever asked for special treatment. We’ve only asked that this matter be settled. We even agreed to pay half the cost of the repairs. It’s the owner of the car who is refusing to meet us halfway, despite the fact that he has been proven wrong in a court of law.

    What have we done to deserve this? Did you ever stop to think that this might have happened, not because we were expecting special treatment, but because the owner figured he could scam us because we don’t know the system? We just want to put an end to all of this.

    By the way, John paid half of that $12,000 garage fee to get the car out of the garage and we are fully expecting to have to go back to court again. Go ahead and call the cops on us. We haven’t done anything wrong.

    I’m curious to learn why you have such a bad attitude towards foreigners? What have we (John and I) ever done to you? If you’ve had a bad experience with someone from another country, it’s not an excuse to take it out on us. Perhaps you should pass judgement where judgement is due. We are good people. We don’t abuse the system. We don’t abuse and harrass folks the way you do.

    Your comments only come across to me as racist and full of hate towards people who have never done any harm to you. Well done. You’ve achieved your goal. I can now label you both as complete assholes. Consider your job done.

    Krzysztof

    (July 11, 2008 - 9:52 pm)

    Sorry to hear that this man cheated you and John. I’m sure that you didn’t want to get a better treatment. You did it right when you went to the court. It’s the job of the court to judge. And people must know that they cannot be unpunished.
    ***
    Don’t worry about people like J. or S.. Olympian calm is the best way. Good luck.

    Dave

    (July 21, 2008 - 1:03 pm)

    Not to pass judgement or anything, but the Civil Court System has about the same effect in US and Taiwan. For disputes like this, you would probably go to Small Claims Court, if you ever had to deal with them, like I did, you would feel the exact same helplessness I felt. But anyways, there are bad Taiwanese, are there are bad American, Canadians, and whatever. I bought a used car from a guy last year and ended up spending about the same amount of money I bought the car, fixing the car. The lesson to be learned: always bring a friend when buying something used. Not that they have to know alot about cars, but someone there to maybe provide a negative opinion before jumping in something compulsively.

    Steve

    (July 21, 2008 - 6:13 pm)

    Do you think it would have been better to take a Lawyer to
    court on your behalf instead of a friend?

    Carrie

    (July 22, 2008 - 4:43 pm)

    Dave,

    True. We weren’t sure what to do initially, so we followed the advice given to us by co-workers and friends. And yes, I completely agree. This could happen anywhere. I keep stressing this because I don’t want anyone to think I’m bashing Taiwan. I’m writing about this because it has been a real learning experience for us as well, and we hope that our story perhaps gives others something to think about. John purchased his motorcycle on his own and the thing is a beat. It’s served us well and he hasn’t had any problems at all. He incorrectly assumed that buying a car would be as easy.

    Carrie

    (July 22, 2008 - 4:45 pm)

    Steve,

    John took a friend to his first court appearance, but when Mr.Su failed to show, the judge decided to hold the next meeting in his chambers. Since then, each meeting has been held in his chambers and John has used a translator to explain his side of the story. The judge said a lawyer wasn’t needed as John was able to prove what had happened. The case was pretty straight-forward.

    Carrie

    (July 22, 2008 - 4:48 pm)

    UPDATE: We won our case in court. Mr.Su has been asked to pay for the initial problem we reported and the subsequent problems he had the garage fix without our authorization. Three hours after the judge ruled in our favor, we started receiving threatening phone calls. It was pretty easy to guess who, but the fourth phone call confirmed it was Mr. Su when he was recorded harassing our translator.

    Cris

    (July 22, 2008 - 9:50 pm)

    It’s good to know that you won the case and the Taiwanese law works!
    I think patience is what you need now, as this will all be over and Mr. Su will stop calling you soon. Good luck!

    Carrie

    (July 23, 2008 - 4:10 pm)

    Hi Cris,

    I’m so excited to have you as a new friend! Thanks again for coming by. We’re glad it’s over and we haven’t had a nasty phone call in 36 hours, so things are starting to look good.

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