On 30 November 2015, the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee of the Queensland Parliament tabled its report, ‘Lemon’ Laws – Inquiry into Consumer Protections and Remedies for Buyers of New Motor Vehicles (‘Queensland Lemon Law Report’). In its terms of reference, ‘lemons’ are defined as ‘new motor vehicles with numerous, severe defects that reoccur despite multiple repair attempts or where defects have caused a new motor vehicle to be out of service for a prolonged period of time’.
There are three different bases by which a consumer can obtain relief in relation to loss or damage arising from the purchase of lemon motor vehicles. The first basis is where the motor vehicle manufacturer conducts an investigation and there is the possibility of a safety concern with one or more of the parts used in its vehicles. The manufacturer may initiate a voluntary recall of the vehicles in the range and repair the defect free of charge. If the manufacturer does not initiate a voluntary recall, the consumer can commence private action for relief under the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law (‘ACL’) located in schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (‘CCA’) and adopted in the states and territories as a law of their respective jurisdictions. The third basis for obtaining relief is for the consumer to complain to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (‘ACCC’) or state and territory regulators for a contravention of the prohibition of misleading conduct in section 18 of the ACL; or for false or misleading representations by the manufacturer or dealer in relation to after-sales care, the availability of spare parts and servicing. There is also scope for the ACCC to bring a representative action on behalf of consumers to enforce the consumer guarantees. The ACCC has published a comprehensive industry guide on consumer remedies and obligations created by the ACL. Claims for damages or compensation for death or personal injury arising from lemon purchases are dealt with elsewhere in the ACL.