Australian Consumer Law - Motor Vehicles

Australian Consumer Law as it applies to motor vehicles

Acceptable quality

The test for acceptable quality is whether a reasonable consumer, fully aware of a motor vehicle’s condition (including any defects) would find it: fit for all the purposes for which vehicles of that kind are commonly supplied acceptable in appearance and finish free from defects safe durable.


Acceptable quality

Major vs minor failures When a motor vehicle fails to meet a consumer guarantee, your rights and obligations depend on whether the failure is major or minor. Major failures:

A major failure to comply with the consumer guarantees is when:

a reasonable consumer would not have bought the motor vehicle if they had known about the full extent of the problem.

the motor vehicle is substantially unfit for its normal purpose and cannot easily be made fit within a reasonable time. the motor vehicle is substantially unfit for a purpose that the consumer told the supplier about, and cannot easily be made fit within a reasonable time.

the motor vehicle is unsafe. What is ‘unsafe’ will depend on the circumstances of each case.

When there is a major failure to comply with a consumer guarantee, the consumer can choose to: reject the motor vehicle and choose a refund or an identical replacement (or one of similar value if reasonably available), or keep the motor vehicle and ask for compensation for any drop in its value caused by the problem. Inability to repair within a reasonable time

A reasonable repair time, for the purpose of determining whether a fault is major, is assessed taking into account the nature of the problem and the difficulty in identifying it.

Otherwise, the assessment is on the basis of all things being normal or equal; for example, that parts are available. A failure that is initially assessed as minor but which is not fixed within a reasonable time (for example, because parts subsequently become unavailable, or because of any other reason beyond your control) gives the consumer the right to reject the vehicle. If you initially consider the fault can be repaired within a reasonable time, the consumer must give you a chance to do so.

Example 1: A car developed an engine fault that caused the car to seize. The supplier initially assessed the repair as taking a day or two but was unable to repair the vehicle after 11 weeks. This indicates that the fault was not one that could be fixed within a reasonable time and the consumer was entitled to reject the vehicle under the consumer guarantees.

Example 2: A car had an intermittent electrical fault that caused a warning light to activate from time to time. The consumer accepted that the fault was minor and asked the supplier to repair it, but the warning light did not activate while the car was in for repair, so it was not possible to identify the cause of the problem. The consumer returned the vehicle for a second and third attempted repair, and the supplier was eventually able to identify and repair the fault. The consumer was not entitled to reject the vehicle, as the time taken to remedy the fault was reasonable when the nature of the fault was taken into account.