CHOICE membership

Lemon Caravans & RVs

I am the admin of the Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus Facebook group. The stories my members tell are horrifying to say the least. This is an industry that urgently needs a Senate Inquiry and regulation. Regulators are letting consumers down. The judicial system is letting consumers down. I have members reporting being thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands out of pocket, simply for purchasing a lemon RV.

My own issue is with Lotus Caravans. In spite of evidence of major failures, including that the caravan is not compliant to Australian Standards, the dealer simply refuses a refund. Why? Because they just can. The consumer has to take expensive legal action, depending on the State. I am in QLD and the Tribunal limit is only $25000. So I have to take it to a full court hearing. Only NSW and Victoria currently have adequate limits for consumers to get redress at reasonable cost. However these Tribunals have become quasi courts, allowing legal representation for the businesses, which force the consumer to also be represented. Then costs are not awarded.

No matter which way you turn, if you buy a lemon caravan you are more than likely going to be financially worse off. Consumers know their rights very well, from being a member of my group and being referred to the information on the ACCC web site. Sadly, with no enforcement, those rights are meaningless.

I hope that Choice will contact me and discuss a survey into this industry as quite frankly it is actually far worse and far more dangerous that even the lemon car manufacturing industry. Do you or your family want to be confronted with a jack knifing caravan because the ball weight is too light, or a wheel coming at you because of a manufacturing defect, or a caravan that explodes right next to yours? This is what is really happening.

I have written submissions to the Australian Consumer Law enquiry and the Productivity Commission enquiry into enforcement and administration. Consumer affairs and fair trading are failing consumers. I have so much evidence that for the most part they refuse to enforce the ACL when they can do so. They simply refuse. So the consumer gets a refusal from the supplier, a refusal from consumer affairs and often when they take it to a Tribunal or Court, they may win but they lose as they settle at mediation with a gag order, they get a result but have to pay their own costs or sometimes are even told to accept more repairs in spite of expert evidence and reports.

This is not a consumer protection system. It is a business protection system.

5 Likes

I’m building my own from scratch. That way I know exactly what I’m getting and I’ll have a more intimate knowledge of the situation if something goes wrong. :slight_smile:

1 Like

More and more RV owners are looking at that option. Project managing the build from qualified tradespeople. From what I have heard it costs about the same, sometimes even less than the current crop of bad bling boxes.

Good luck with it :slight_smile:

1 Like

We’ve just published an article on Lemon Caravans, featuring @tracy.leigh. Read it here:

3 Likes

Wonderful article. Thank you so much to the Choice team and especially Kate Browne for covering this significant consumer rights issue so expertly.

4 Likes

Great to see your hard work recognised, and I’m sure there will be more on the issue. I’ll make sure @KateBrowne receives the feedback, thanks again @tracy.leigh

1 Like

Thanks so much Tracy - and thank you to providing such great information : )

1 Like

A post was split to a new topic: Can anyone provide caravan recommendations?

We’ve spoken to @tracy.leigh again for an update to lemon caravans issues, your rights and what you can do to help avoid problems:

https://www.choice.com.au/transport/cars/general/articles/lemon-caravans-and-consumer-rights

3 Likes

Thanks Brendan, Andy and all the Choice staff for their commitment to consumer protection. The lemon RV problem is huge. Breaches of legislation and regulations are systemic in the industry. Consumer detriment can be in the thousands or tens of thousands. Dreams and lives are shattered. Road users are in peril. The government are not listening to us and so the abuse goes on with impunity.

4 Likes

One of the challenges is the State Office of Fair Trading and ACCC seem to have limited powers under the Acts and devolved to them. They tend to focus on the big fish rather than individual cases (ACCC and OFT) or have little power to enforce decisions made to resolve complaints (esp. OFT).

Many individual’s claims require one to take action oneself most likely using legal avenues which often does not provide an outcome for the complainant and does not assist other with the same problems.

Maybe State and Commonwealth governments (esp. States as they are possibly better placed to resolve individual problems) devolve more powers to allow their agencies have more teeth in relation to taking on individual’s complaints and also to ensure resolution is forthcoming.

There are many criticisms of the OFT that they make decisions but lack the legislative or devoluted powers to ensure they are actioned and enforced.

3 Likes

You are quite correct PHB. I am studying a Master of Applied Law, largely focussing on the failure of the consumer guarantee regime to properly protect consumers of high value complex goods such as new cars and RVs. There were fundamental flaws made when drafting the consumer guarantee regime. It was a deliberate ommission not to include offences for breaches and in fact, remove the consumer guarantees as a contravention of the law. In order words, they cannot be enforced. This failure is well known to the legislators drafting the ACL amendments as well and so far they have refused to address it.

My gripe at the moment is with the ACCC which CAN do something. I have provided them with reams of information at their request, but they still refuse to act. They seem to think the Jayco case will solve all the problems but it won’t. The problems are systemic and the traders know they won’t be prosecuted. This allows them to act in any way they choose. The culture is that of the stereotypical used car salesman. Take the money and run. State and Federal governments can fix this problem quite simply, but won’t do so because they are privileging business welfare over consumer welfare. Until that changes, consumer protection law will remain weak.

4 Likes