Move to push out lemons

Con­sumer watch­dog acts to pro­tect car buy­ers, writes NEIL McDON­ALD

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News -

NEW-CAR own­ers may be able to re­turn their de­fec­tive ve­hi­cles un­der tough USstyle con­sumer lemon laws be­ing pro­posed.

The broad-rang­ing ‘‘lemon law’’ could also ap­ply to used ve­hi­cles if the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment adopts the rec­om­men­da­tions into con­sumer rights by the Com­mon­wealth Con­sumer Af­fairs Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil.

The move has been wel­comed by motoring bodies, but the RACV says the com­plaints process also needs to be stream­lined.

Con­sumers who have been sold a lemon should get a quick res­o­lu­tion to their prob­lem, it says.

Help is al­ready avail­able through Con­sumer Af­fairs Vic­to­ria, the Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal or the courts.

But the RACV’s gen­eral man­ager (pub­lic pol­icy), Brian Ne­gus, says there is no clear process to fol­low.

Con­sumers are of­ten left pow­er­less by the cur­rent res­o­lu­tion sys­tem.

‘‘It’s the con­sumer who of­ten gets caught be­tween man­u­fac­tur­ers and dealers ar­gu­ing over who is re­spon­si­ble, with nei­ther of them putting up their hand and the con­sumer be­ing left with a faulty ve­hi­cle,’’ he says.

‘‘We be­lieve any­one buy­ing a car must be en­ti­tled to ser­vice his­to­ries and war­ranty re­pair records.

‘‘Con­sumers must also be in­formed about what they can do when things con­tinue to go wrong.’’

The RACV wants a level play­ing field so man­u­fac­tur­ers have rights too. It says any lemon law should con­sider the age of the ve­hi­cle and dis­tance trav­elled when cal­cu­lat­ing the buy­back price for man­u­fac­tur­ers.

‘‘If a ve­hi­cle is three months old it should be re­placed, but if it’s two or more years old its kilo­me­tres should have some im­pact on price,’’ the RACV says.

In its sub­mis­sion, the RACV de­fines a lemon as any ve­hi­cle that has had three re­pair at­tempts to a per­sis­tent fault, or a sin­gle at­tempt for a sig­nif­i­cant safety de­fect, or has had 10 cu­mu­la­tive days out of ser­vice, or de­fects that occurred within two years or 40,000km.

Aus­tralian con­sumers make about 50,000 com­plaints a year over war­ranties and en­ti­tle­ments on faulty goods, which costs them $12 bil­lion a year.

The coun­cil recog­nises that new ve­hi­cles are of­ten the sec­ond most sig­nif­i­cant pur­chase af­ter buy­ing a home, but when that pur­chase turns out to be a lemon they are of­ten over­whelmed about where they can get help.

Coun­cil chair­man Colin Neave says: ‘‘It’s im­por­tant that con­sumer law pro­vides an ef­fec­tive means of re­dress when con­sumers suf­fer, for ex­am­ple, be­cause of the pres­ence of lemons in any mar­ket.’’

Ne­gus rec­om­mends that con­sumers get an in­de­pen­dent pre-pur­chase in­spec­tion as the first line of de­fence against buy­ing a de­fec­tive ve­hi­cle.

‘‘A com­pre­hen­sive in­spec­tion of a new or used ve­hi­cle be­fore pur­chase helps mo­torists know ex­actly what they are buy­ing be­fore hand­ing money over,’’ he says.

Costly:

about 50,000 com­plaints a year are made about faulty goods in Aus­tralia, to­talling $12 bil­lion in pur­chases.

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