The report follows 18 months of research and consultation with industry and consumer groups, with three key observations
- car manufacturers need to update their complaint handling systems and improve their approach to the handling of consumer guarantee claims
- a mandatory scheme should be introduced for car manufacturers to share technical information with independent repairers
- new car buyers need more accurate information about their cars’ fuel consumption and emissions.
Commercial arrangements between manufacturers and dealers
After review of a range of ‘dealer agreements’ (commercial arrangements between car manufacturers and dealers) the ACCC concludes that dealers respond to consumer guarantee claims within the framework of the policies and procedures set by manufacturers.
ACCC Chair Sims comments
If manufacturers' policies and procedures don’t adequately recognise consumer guarantee rights, this can influence the behaviour of dealers in responding to complaints. ... We recommend that car manufacturers update their complaint handling systems to ensure consumer law is front and centre of relevant systems, policies and procedures. Conditions or obligations under the manufacturer’s warranty must not exclude or limit consumers’ rights.. We are concerned that some manufacturers impose unnecessarily complex warranty claim processes, leaving dealers inadequately compensated for repairs or remedies provided to consumers
Sims noted that dealers have direct responsibility to provide remedies to consumers but they also have a right under the Australian Consumer Law to recover the reasonable costs of providing these from the car manufacturers when the manufacturer is at fault, with the ACCC foreshadowing action "if a manufacturer prevents a dealer from fulfilling their legal obligations under consumer law".
Sharing of technical information
Independent repairers continue to have problems accessing technical information to repair and service new cars. The ACCC accordingly recommends introduction of a mandatory scheme requiring car manufacturers to share technical information needed to repair and service new cars with independent repairers. Sims comments that "Any mandatory scheme must be available on commercially ‘fair and reasonable terms’, and have safeguards that enable environmental, safety and security-related technical information to be shared with the independent sector".
Fuel consumption and emissions
The ACCC recommends that the Federal Government introduce more realistic laboratory tests for fuel consumption and emissions, and an on-road ‘real driving emissions’ test to give new car buyers more accurate information. Research from the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) found that real-world fuel consumption is on average 23% higher than official laboratory test results.
Our research shows fuel consumption is the third most significant purchasing factor for consumers after price and model. We are concerned that new car buyers are not receiving accurate information about fuel consumption or emissions performance.
The ACCC considers that there may be additional benefits to consumers from an Australian real-driving emissions test. It accordingly recommends that the Government’s Ministerial Forum on Vehicle Emissions consider the costs and benefits of an Australian real driving emissions testing program.