The purchase of a vehicle is a significant financial commitment for many people. So what do you do when the vehicle you’ve purchased turns out to be a lemon and the dealership doesn’t seem to want to help?
As you may be aware, the Australian Consumer Law puts in place a set of ‘consumer guarantees’ which are incorporated by law into certain contracts, and these include contracts for the purchase of many types of vehicles. Consumer guarantees do not need to be written into a contract. Instead, they are automatically included in any contract between a seller and a buyer by operation of law.
In these situations, the Australian Consumer Law imposes an obligation on motor vehicle dealers to ensure that a minimum standard of quality is met in relation to a vehicle being sold and by extension, permits a purchaser of a defective vehicle (including second-hand vehicles) to require the dealer to have the defects fixed (regardless of whether they were given or sold a written warranty).
The key consumer guarantee which dealers tend to be in breach of in these types of disputes is that the vehicle was not of an acceptable quality in the first place. In determining acceptable quality, a court will have reference to (amongst other things):
- the purchase price (ie the more expensive the vehicle the higher the standard of ‘acceptable quality’ is likely to be);
- whether the vehicle in question is fit for purpose (ie whether it is roadworthy and safe); and
- the period of time after the purchase in which the vehicle could be safely driven by the purchaser (ie if it breaks down within a few days of purchase then the question is likely to be whether that was unlucky or whether there was perhaps a pre-existing fault).
In any event, if you (or someone you know) finds yourself in this position and the dealer doesn’t want to know about it (or tries to hide behind the fact that you opted not to purchase a warranty product or some other ‘excuse’) then often the first step is to obtain an independent report or assessment about the vehicle fault/s and use that as a basis to seek to compel the dealer to have the defect/s fixed. Beyond that, you may seek to engage with the Department of Commerce for assistance and/or any motor trade association that the dealer may be a member of.
If the dealer is still unresponsive at the end of that process then you may have little option other than to pursue an action through the courts to seek a refund of your purchase price in exchange for returning the vehicle, or to perhaps try and negotiate compensation to cover the cost of arranging the repairs yourself.
Finally, if you have read this far and think that you need some practical advice or assistance in relation to your situation, then now is probably the time to get in touch. Austral Legal can help and we offer an initial discounted 30-minute SmartMove appointment for $80 by phone or in person at our office. Bookings can be made online through our website or simply by phoning our office on 08 9745 9550. Once we have a handle on what is required, we may well be able to offer a fixed fee for any further legal services, giving you cost certainty from the start. Austral Legal. Practical advice.