Move to push out lemons
Consumer watchdog acts to protect car buyers, writes NEIL McDONALD
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.
about 50,000 complaints a year are made about faulty goods in Australia, totalling $12 billion in purchases.