A campaign to better protect car buyers from dodgy new vehicles has gained powerful allies, with its most vocal advocate confident that new legal safeguards will eventuate.
On Wednesday morning, the Queensland parliament will begin public hearings into the need for a nation-wide ‘lemon law‘, which could trigger collaboration between attorneys-general in other states.
Consumer advocate Ashton Wood, a victim of a faulty Jeep Cherokee who fought to bring the issue to national attention, will address the inquiry from 10am (AEDT).
A ‘lemon law’ is long overdue because Australia has become a “dumping ground for poor quality vehicles because manufacturers think they can get away with it”, Mr Wood told The New Daily before his speech.
“We’ve got sh**loads of cases, so they can no longer deny there’s a problem.”
Last year, Mr Wood destroyed his Jeep with crowbars, arrows, angle grinders and a 35-tonne excavator to raise awareness.
He compelled the national consumer watchdog, the ACCC, to act against Fiat Chrysler by arranging dozens of other disgruntled buyers to flood the watchdog’s website with complaints.
As a result, the watchdog gave Fiat Chrysler until 11 November to contact affected customers and offer redress. The company is yet to do so, according to Mr Wood, who claims to be in regular contact with many of those affected.
In his speech to the Queensland parliament, the advocate will refer to the recent Volkswagen scandal as further evidence of the need for laws to specifically target dodgy new vehicles.
“I destroyed my Jeep in frustration after three years of ‘lemon’ vehicle ownership, where the manufacturer and dealer wiped their hands of all responsibility and outright refused to replace my faulty vehicle or refund my money,” he will tell the state parliament.
“I discovered that our national consumer law and our local laws and jurisdictions are fundamentally flawed.”
Mr Wood hoped that Qld Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath would band together with attorneys-general in other states to legislate a ‘lemon law’ scheme similar to that which has existed in the US for decades.
“I have been contacted by husbands, wives, mums, dads and even grandparents whose lives have been affected by ‘lemon’ vehicles and who never would have purchased their vehicle had they known about safety, reliability and build quality issues they were about to experience,” he will say.
“With local manufacturing going offshore in the next few years, we need a law that will hold the importer and dealer responsible for the safety and reliability of vehicles to be used on our roads.
“What we need is a law that supports the consumer, and doesn’t leave us out in the cold where the only warmth is by the fire we light under our lemon vehicles.”
A nation-wide ‘lemon law’ would require collaboration, as Australia’s consumer protection scheme is legislated both by the federal parliament and each of the states and territories.
The inquiry will hear from other consumer advocates, legal experts, the RACQ and representatives of the automotive industry.