When Life Gives Us Lemons, Do We Need Lemon Laws?

It’s a contentious topic that’s sweeping Australia; whilst introducing lemon laws may have merit, singling out the automotive industry does not

Lemon laws are intended to protect consumers with cars that have had multiple faults or exceeded a set number of days in the workshop because of repairs. When these limits are exceeded, manufacturers are forced to offer customers a new replacement or refund.

Whilst lemon laws do not currently exist in Australia, we have been historically protected by Australian Consumer Law (ACL) – the sweeping legislation that helps ensure shoppers are treated fairly when consuming goods and services.
Yet now, many voices across the nation are calling for added protection. The movement has been spearheaded by a number of people and events, including last year’s infamous Destroy My Jeep campaign. Disgruntled Jeep customer Ashton Wood, who had appealed to Fiat Chrysler to replace his car, ultimately destroyed it – as part of a major awareness campaign.

Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath is another prominent figure calling for Australian lemon laws, recently stating:

‘I’ve heard some shocking stories where year after year, sometimes five years, where the car’s still going in for a month at a time being repaired and yet the Dealer’s not willing to replace the vehicles.’

Ms D’Ath, who believes ACL does not provide enough protection for new car buyers, has set up a forum for people to provide their own personal (negative) experiences.

‘Certainly I’ve heard many stories that people do not believe the Australian consumer law is adequate enough to protect them and there has been a call from some in the community for lemon laws similar to the United States,’ she said.

Buying a new car is an emotional purchase. For many shoppers, their car is a great source of pride, something that often represents conscious saving and sacrifice and which is expected to provide years of faultless service.

However, just like whitegoods, electronics, marine equipment and products from any other industry – sometimes components fail, and most of the time they can be easily repaired.

With this mind, AADA believes that if the Government wishes to legislate lemon laws, they should cover the entire retail industry – not only automotive.

‘Any proposals should not be limited purely to cars – they should apply to other goods, from farming equipment to household appliances’, says AADA Policy Director, Michael Deed.

However, as is often the case, the automotive industry and particularly its retail arm, are portrayed as culprits.

‘Automotive dealers are an easy target,’ says Former AADA CEO Patrick Tessier, ‘however what many people don’t understand is that the decision to refund or replace a vehicle is something that is made at a manufacturer level. In serious situations where a car needs major or multiple repairs, Dealers look to their manufacturer for direction, and the manufacturers work within ACL guidelines.’

Whilst lemon laws do not currently exist, in almost all cases ‘common sense prevails’ – a point made by Tessier:

‘Nobody enjoys the inconvenience that product faults cause. And sometimes we can be particularly unlucky. In the case of automotive, common sense will prevail. And the fact is that in serious cases where a car’s safety is jeopardized, a manufacturer will replace it.’

However if lemon laws were to be legislated, clear and fair guidelines for what constitutes a ‘lemon’ will be critical. For example, a pain point for many Dealers is the ‘loss of faith’ some drivers experience after a major fault in their car.

Some customers demand a new car after an isolated component failure, like a gearbox. Though it’s a significant malfunction, after replacement, the car remains in perfectly safe and useable condition.

There would be no logical reason to replace a car in this scenario, other than to appease the consumer who has developed a false perception that the entire vehicle is faulty.

According to AADA Chairmen Ian Field, cars built today are far better in quality than their predecessors.

‘New cars are more reliable now than they have ever been – it’s no coincidence that some manufacturers are offering warranties as long as seven years. Yes, sometimes things go wrong, but it would be unreasonable for consumers to expect replacement vehicles at the drop of a hat.’

Moving forward, a review of dealership agreements may be required to clarify liability and responsibility.  In any case, Dealers will work within the law to ensure that consumers experiencing difficulties with their cars receive assistance in-line with their rights.

Whether that includes lemon laws is yet to be seen, but this is an issue that will be followed closely by Automotive Dealer.

9 comments

  1. Disgruntled

    Of course there should be lemon laws…the industry is a disgrace, little honesty, false advertising, con men everywhere and, to top it off, crap after sales service and manufacturers trying to avoid their legal responsibility left, right, and center…good on D’arth!!!

  2. Denis Vlahov

    $85000 Audi Q7 2014 model
    13500kms
    Fantastic car all it needed during the test drive was a simple wheel alignment to stop it drifting left all the time.
    WRONG, no such thing as a simple wheel alignment in this car.
    Audi have had it 6 times in 8 weeks and still can’t get it right.
    They say it’s within spec and acceptable.
    Independent experts say otherwise.
    It changes lanes and exits freeways without driver intervention.
    Harder to turn right than left.
    Chewing tyres , new set required at only 18000kms.
    Try driving it long distances, well don’t as it’s very tiring keeping constant pressure on the wheel, don’t hit road irregularities at 110kms per hr as it hires left violently making it unsafe.
    But Audi Australia say it’s normal.
    What a Joke.
    I know wheel alignments are a normal maintenance thing and ware and tear etc, but if the vehicle can’t be adjusted correctly I feel it’s not fit for purpose and unsafe, not to mention expensive as premature tyre ware.
    Had enough of AUDI
    Can you recommend a lawyer who understands cars????

  3. What planet does Patrick Tessier live on. The one point missed by all is that a motor vehicle on average is the second biggest investment a family makes and to be hung out to dry by firstly the dealers then the manufacturer and finally the system leaves people in real trouble. The manufacturers hold way to much of the power in this and so what happens?, the quality of the vehicles drops off, the manufacturers bank the profit and tell the customer to go jump. What a system, instead of asking the industry what it thinks ask the punters if they want a real Lemon Laws with teeth to bring the industry into alignment with peoples expectations. Bet you I know what they would say. Across all retail you ask? Why not, the only entities fearing Lemon Laws are the shoddy people who rip people off – oh and the weeds who take benefits from these mongrels to protect them. Wake up Australia, your being conned and you can change it, check out – https://www.facebook.com/lemonlaws4aus/
    By the way Patrick I have now had six transmission failures in my brand new car, do you think that qualifies as a major problem????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  4. Mungan Nelley

    While I am at it, Mr Ian Field, ask yourself a real simple question, why are loud noises being made throughout Australia in all forms of media about having comprehensive Lemon Laws, let me help you. Days gone by there was no need for them, your local car dealer was practically one of the family, You bought your first car off them, you traded that when the family started growing, you got that economical small car for the missus to do her thing, the kids grow up, first place you look for a reliable car for them was the dealer. Why, because he looked after you, he made sure you had what you needed, he went out of his way to make sure you would come back through that door. The cars then were far more reliable than today and so his job was not of warranty but customer service.
    If you honestly believe that technology trumps reliability you are part of the problem. Wow I just got it, with a chairman who thinks like you no wonder the dealers treat people with very real issues like mud. Nice one Ian, what progress.

    • She looks haggard and old for 42! These women sure know how to seal the deal (have a baby) to snag these multimillionaires! Maybe it’s part of their retirement planning! They don’t even have to marry them!

    • SBranch, I have forever been one of your strongest cheer leaders and I certainly back you on the cursive writing issue. I support it for all the reasons listed above and 6 million more! I have letters written by my great grandfather, who was a doctor in the Civil War. They were written to his wife and are so precious. The history our family would have missed without those letters! Please take up the cause____many will join you!

  5. WooooooooHoooooooooooo, wow, take a look at this below;
    http://www.news.com.au/finance/accc-rod-sims-says-he-will-be-addressing-poor-behaviour-by-big-business/news-story/eb74d1a1d2811de80955854b8a2450ae

    We are coming for you Ian, it’s just a matter of time, me thinks you should be advising your members to get in front of this because “The Times – They Are a Changing”

    Talk about providence, Mana from heaven, “Lucy” “You Got Some Explaining To Do”

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