Caravan Industry Association of Australia responds to Consumer Affairs Forum meeting

< Date: 30 October 2018

Caravan Industry Association of Australia acknowledged the key points from the Joint Communique issued by the Consumer Affairs Forum attended last week by the Commonwealth, State, Territory and New Zealand Ministers responsible for consumer protection in their relevant jurisdictions.

CEO, Stuart Lamont, reinforced that Caravan Industry Association of Australia believes that all consumers of caravanning and Recreational Vehicle (RV) product are entitled to products that are safe and compliant with Australian Design Rules”.

Mr. Lamont said this would be best achieved by the Federal Government ensuring that the Road Vehicle Standards Act received its third and final reading, without further delay, when the next Senate sitting takes place next month.

“Caravan Industry Association of Australia continues to take its stewardship of the industry seriously.  Our industry has been waiting five years, for this piece of legislation.”

“Over 21,000 caravans and motorhomes were built in Australia last year — up more than fourfold over the past two decades –and more than 70 per cent of all caravans bought in Australia are made here, with research indicating that even after 12 months, 90% of consumers remain happy with their purchase.”

“However the inability to modernise the existing 1989 Motor Vehicle Standards Act has fuelled calls and an ill-informed social media campaign demanding lemon laws due to a small number of unhappy caravan owners who’ve experienced major faults and problems, many of which are vexatious or may not have occurred had the Road Vehicle Standards Bill come into force.”

“Safety is paramount, and where there is a genuine problem the consumer should rightfully expect remedial action.  Businesses however should also have the right of reply and the opportunity to fix any issue.  We are seeing too many occasions where consumers are placing unreasonable and unlawful demands on industry businesses.  This is where it is important that the two pieces of legislation need to work better together for positive outcomes for all concerned.”

The CEO also criticised calls by the Queensland Government for ‘Lemon Laws’, when consumers of RV product faced a $25K cap when pursuing consumer disputes through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and forcing them and businesses alike into costly and unnecessary legal action.  With such a low cap Mr Lamont said he understood the frustrations of RV consumers whose purchase exceeded it.

However so-called ‘Lemon Laws’ would place “an unjustifiable and an unreasonable burden compliance burden on RV manufacturers and retailers, the vast majority, of whom, are busy running and growing their enterprises, including employing many thousands of Australians and contributing to the nation’s economy.”

“These are small businesses who can ill afford to expend the resources both financially and in terms of time of challenging the many untruths that continue to be perpetrated in social media or having to deal with vexatious claims.”

Stuart Lamont concluded his comments by saying that the industry stood ready to work with Consumer Ministers from all jurisdictions to ensure that the communique’s provisions around 60 day refund or replacement rights, evidentiary burden on consumers and the introduction of a general safety provisions were reasonable and fair for both consumers and businesses.