CHOICE membership

Have you ever had trouble getting a refund or replacement for your new lemon car? Tell us about it!

It should be easy to get a refund when your new car doesn’t work due to a manufacturing defect but unfortunately that’s rarely the case. Instead new car owners stuck with lemons spend countless hours waiting at the repair shop, liaising with their car dealer or scrutinising the manufacturer’s warranty. This shouldn’t be the way. When a new car, just like any other product, is faulty and doesn’t work, you should be able to easily get a remedy of your choosing, like a refund or replacement.

We’re getting into gear to launch a new campaign on lemon cars, but first we need your help. If you’ve ever bought a new car that was so faulty you couldn’t drive it in the first 2 months of owning it, can you share your story with us? You can post it here or send it in to campaigns@choice.com.au.

With your help we can drive change together.

Thanks!

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In the early years of this millennium, my wife and I traded in a Honda for a new Citroen. This car had endless problems, from breaking down regularly to tail lights not working (are you sure your wife driving behind you could see properly?) to the alarm going off endlessly while the car was sitting quietly in our garage. The dealer seemed more interested in its Porsche customers, and constantly fobbed us off.

I eventually wrote to Citroen Australia, and they did… nothing. I think I got a form letter back about it, but it’s somewhere buried in the files and - well - it’s all just too painful.

We ended up trading the dud Citroen in for a one year old Mitsubishi Magna, and a year later went back to get a second Magna. Both are running strong, and will be driven until their final demise.

The Citroen was our first and last new car. Happy to name and shame the dealership if you’d like, as the entire mess is fully documented.

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edit: fixed link to point to intended post

That was probably when ATECO was the importer. They had a reputation of reputations. Since that post and after ATECO almost completely destroyed the marque Citroen moved on to the Peugeot importer Sime Darby, who could not get either of the French brands going. 2 years ago Inchcape became importer who had a good record with Subaru, but them taking on PSA cars was not well done as evidenced by internet chats at the time.

During ATECO’s time their dealerships reflected ATECO disinterest in customers who had accepted their keys and driven off. Responses to problems were a circus of ‘making it go away’.

Back to the topic, not only is there a worry about our lack of serious consumer protection for vehicles in fact rather than just theory, sometimes the ultimate responsible party supposedly supporting a dealer can be a moving target that is not the manufacturer or their subsidiary, but is an importer ‘of the moment’, and some try to make it right but are not up to doing so. Others pride themselves in slick web sites and don’t care about much else expect dollars coming in and none going out.

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The lemon doesn’t only apply to new cars! Older cars sometimes develop systemic faults that the manufacturers refuse to acknowledge.

While I acknowlege that the ACL would and should apply to new cars, perhaps keep in mind challenges faced by car owners who have older vehicles that have developed serious flaws which by the volume of complaints on the internet indicate that it is a systemic failure.

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Takata airbags being one issue that should be subject to lemon laws even on older cars. Would someone have bought the vehicle if they had know of the fault? Isn’t that part of the ACL rights of a consumer?

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When we asked our online supporters in May if they thought they should be offered a refund or a replacement when their new car doesn’t work, more than 18,000 said yes. We couldn’t agree more.

When you buy a new car and it’s defective, you should be offered a refund. We think it’s a big problem that car companies get away with behaviour that wouldn’t hold in any other industry. We’ve launched our lemon cars campaign to highlight and illustrate the problem that new car buyers face when they buy a lemon.

We’re focusing on Australia’s top 10 car companies and, by demanding more from them, we’re hoping to ensure that unfair treatment of new car owners becomes a thing of the past. To start, we’ll be asking companies like Mazda and Ford to adopt the 60-day refund policy. This policy sets a standard for how you should be treated if you get a lemon car. With the 60-day refund policy in place, your consumer rights will be clearly spelled out for car dealers and manufacturers to comply with – there’ll be no room for interpretation, making it easier to get a remedy of your choice within those first months of ownership.

We’ve seen major car companies like Toyota, Holden and Volkswagen already take up the policy. What we need to see now is all car companies in Australia agree to it as a simple way to commit to improving their refund practices and compliance with the law.

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Here’s an update on our ongoing lemon cars campaign. So far, only three companies – Nissan, Kia and Mitsubishi – have responded to our call for change.

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A great project.

Has there been any interest or support from the state run or national motoring organisations?

The RACV, RACQ, NRMA, etc are all run supposedly for their members as non profit organisations. All supposedly champion better outcomes for their members?

It may be a supportive public response from each to the Choice Campaign might be just what is needed.

Or are they too chicken?

It is informative to consider the AAA submission Dec 2016 to The Australian Consumer Law Review.

At that time the AAA presented a ‘Summary of Findings’ in 9 Positions. It reads a bit like a Sammy J sketch script. The powder puff is a useful accessory in any public discussion?

The FCAI (Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries), which sounds a bit like a third House of Parliament but isn’t seemed to say something similar more recently, with perhaps less emphasis on the consumer.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) doesn’t believe there is a need to force manufacturers to commit to a time-specific guarantee because the current laws provide protection to owners.

_The FCAI chief Tony Weber says: _

“New car sales in Australia are also covered by Australian Consumer Law (ACL), one of the most stringent consumer protection laws in the world. This prescribes a guarantee of acceptable quality and safety. Included in the ACL is the notion of major and non-major failures and all FCAI members, together with their dealer networks, respond to consumer issues with both their own comprehensive warranty guarantees and the ACL in mind.

Thanks to

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I received an email from Hyundai Australia , shown below ,re my email to them regarding “lemon cars” . I’m surprised . They even extend the time required passed 60 days . I’m impressed . Pardon the sarcasm .

Customer Care (Hyundai Customer Care)

Aug 20, 12:26 PM AEST

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for your email. Hyundai takes any concerns raised by our customers very seriously and is committed to meeting or exceeding our obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), which is the foundation for consumer protection in Australia. We have frameworks and systems in place to ensure our customers get proper entitlements under the ACL, for more than just the first 60 days from purchase.

If you have any concerns with your Hyundai vehicle, please feel free to contact us on 1800 186 306.

Kind regards,
Craig Salthouse
Assistant Manager Customer Care
Hyundai Motor Company Australia
http://customercare.hyundai.com.au
Phone: 1800 186 306

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Me Too…

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Thanks for your support Mark! I agree, it’d be great if the state and national motoring organisations got on board with our campaign. At the next stage of the lemon cars campaign, we will be reaching out to these stakeholders to garner their support.

You may have already seen that the Australian Automotive Dealership Association has called for a mandatory automotive code to achieve better outcomes for consumers (and dealers). The Government has also agreed to reform the sector, however it’s unclear what this will look like.

I’d be interested to learn your thoughts on a mandatory code and hear any ideas you have for the campaign going forward.

Thanks!

Amy

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I think a mandatory code would be a good idea, but it should possibly go further than getting a refund or replacement for a lemon car.

Possibly the code should also require dealers/manufactures to keep public records of replaced parts/components on a vehicle for the manufacturer’s nominated warranty period. This is so that one does not have to fight the dealer/manufacturer to get components which are known to fail due to poor design, manufacturing quality or installation. The customer often goes in blind when trying to make a warranty claim and I expect that this is exploited by the dealers/manufacturers…they try and push the cost back to the customer where possible. If this information was public, consumers would be able to determine reliability of vehicles and likely problems prior to vehicle purchases and existing customers can determine if the part failure was common and not because of the vehicles use.

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Given the minister Karen Andrews’ press release said this,
The Morrison Government will consult industry on draft automotive regulations in the coming months.

It appears consumers and any interested representative organisations have a considerable task in front of them if they hope to influence the outcomes?

Many of us will have thoughts on both points, with @phb already having shared a few.

Hopefully there are others who can relate their personal experiences per your request.

Like many others I can only relate issues that have become evident well after the first two months of ownership. We share two vehicles, both 14+ years old. Our experience of these and one other more recent purchase suggests that the deficiencies in consumer protection for warranty and support are extensive.

The toaster analogy and variations on it I feel make a powerful metaphor. Whether a toaster, a fridge or a $10,000 75” 4x QLED flatscreen TV, why should consumers accept less or have a more difficult path to remedy if it is a vehicle?

Any mandatory code needs to cut through all variations in the maze between the retailer(dealership) and the importer/manufacturer. The dealerships are currently suggesting the warranty problem is not theirs, and that warranty is something they have no control over. Tough! A dealership has a choice to be in the business or not, and to accept or reject any agreement with the suppliers. If they make a bad deal with the supplier, why should the customer wear the consequences! The chain along the way is too tricky for any typical consumer to navigate.

We as consumers have no sight of the agreements/contacts between the dealerships and their suppliers or even through the chain of distributor/s, importers to the manufacturer (overseas). What ever comes through possible legislative improvements for consumers needs to be impervious to obfuscation. There are two readily identified entities in this chain within the reach of Australian law (the selling dealership and the importer who pays the customs clearances and holds the certification license for the imported vehicles).

I’d look carefully to how the current ACL is constructed in respect of everyday purchases (the base case $40 toaster being one such example). While not perfect the ACL appears to deliver better for such items than any other model of consumer legislation. For a vehicle with a longer everyday warranty (5yrs commonly) the same outcomes as for a toaster, dishwasher, fridge adjusted for the longer time periods for a motor vehicle should apply and beyond to the full warranty period.

Consumers can purchase fridges, Audio visual equipment and kitchen appliances with $10k price tags. Nearly the value of a new small vehicle. Which suggests that the 60 day replacement suggested for a motor vehicle should realistically extend for a major defect or failure for at least one year, or for something that is not reasonably repairable, 100% cash back.

There is a further point of discussion that even after 4 years, and 60,000km or so any vehicle that has had repeated failures and defects is no longer for for purpose. The owner in consequently suffering loss of use and value should retain both a right and a direct consumer claim to a suitable agreed placement or part refund on a government consumer organisation (and not industry) depreciation schedule.

I’d suggest consumers should also actively campaign to encourage or shame the various state motorists organisations to being on the consumers side and part of the solution, as a service to their members. Is it a likely outcome? I’d like to see it happen, as taking on the industry in a consumer tribunal hearing consumers might need some relevant independent technical support with relevant expert knowledge. I have my doubts the organisations don’t already have half a foot in the industry door.

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Mazda has now been recognised for its own ‘superior’ service and support regime. ‘Sue us’.

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Great stuff.

We would never buy a Mazda again after the disgusting lack of service on a new Mazda3 Maxx Sport hatchback.

The front seats pillored and it took over 12 months for the local dealer who sold it to get the replacement coverings.

The plastic top of the dash developed a large crack and the claimed replacement part never eventuated despite many calls over more than a year.

We sold the piece of junk with the dash top still cracked.

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