big risks face consumers in proposed vehicle imports

Assistant Minister Briggs MP Calls For Further Submissions On The Proposal To Reduce Restrictions On Personal Importation Of Motor Vehicles.

On 16 April 2015, the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Hon Jamie Briggs MP (Mayor, South Australia) announced the Government’s proposal to reduce restrictions preventing Australian consumers from personally importing motor vehicles from overseas. The Minister admitted there was an element of ‘buyer beware’ in the proposal in terms of parts, warranties, shipment and selection of vehicle but ‘the market would create products which would cover that situation’.

The AADA immediately responded to the Government’s announcements, claiming the Minister was being irresponsible by making statements such as ‘let the buyer beware’, when there were no details on how the proposal would be administered and enforced by Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD), the Australian Taxation Office and other law enforcement agencies.

The proposal shifts all the risks of ownership to the consumer and will ultimately hurt consumers as there is no manufacturer’s warranty and only limited enforceable protection against a non-resident supplier under Australian Consumer Law (ACL). A motor vehicle is a complex mechanical product and can’t simply be posted back if imported from an overseas Dealer or through a faceless internet transaction.

The Government cannot expect the authorised Dealer network in Australia to assume the risks associated with a personal import. Australian Dealers have invested around $17 billion in facilities to service the products they sell. The authorised Dealer network underpins consumer protection through its substantial investment in specialised workshop facilities, inventories of spare parts, technology and training to support the products they sell which are backed by a manufacturer’s warranty, and fixed price servicing.

The expert body on vehicle crime in Australia, the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) warned of a potential upsurge in car thefts and related crimes if the Government pushed ahead with the proposal. ‘Consumers will be placed at risk as they will have no way of knowing or checking whether the car they are importing has been reported stolen previously or whether it has suffered from damage which is not visibly identifiable’ said Executive Director, Ray Carroll.  NMVTRC stated that car theft was a global problem, with criminal gangs making millions of dollars by stealing cars and then re-birthing them for local and export markets.

Minister Briggs has invited additional comments on the proposal which will lead to the development of a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) and the Government’s final decision. Dealers are encouraged to email comments to MVSAreview@infrastructure.gov.au before close of business Friday 29 May 2015.

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