On 15 November 2018 the Queensland Government introduced a bill for an act which will have a significant impact on motor vehicle disputes in the State of Queensland.
The bill proposes to amend, among other things, the Queensland Fair Trading Act, the Motor Dealers and Chattel Auctioneers Act and the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act (QCAT Bill). The QCAT Bill has been referred to by the Queensland Government as a ‘lemon law reform’.
The Queensland Fair Trading Act is State-based legislation incorporating the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) into State law. This confers jurisdiction on QCAT to hear disputes about motor vehicles in relation to statutory warranties under the ACL, such as the consumer guarantee as to acceptable quality. However, to-date, QCAT’s jurisdiction on such matters is limited to $25,000, beyond which consumers must commence legal proceedings in a more expensive forum.
In practical terms, the major impact of the QCAT Bill to motor vehicle disputes will be to:
- Extend QCAT’s jurisdiction to hear motor vehicle disputes under the Fair Trading Act and the Motor Dealers and Chattel Auctioneers Act from $25,000 to $100,000 (including a caravan or a motor home);
- Give QCAT the power to hear disputes under the Fair Trading Act in an expedited manner – including by appointing an adjudicator – if the dispute is worth less than $25,000; and
- Re-instate limited statutory warranties applying to used vehicles older than 10 years and travelled more than 160,000 kilometres – known as ‘Class B second-hand vehicles’ (these statutory warranties had existed in earlier legislation which was subsequently repealed).
The reforms proposed by the QCAT Bill do not alter any of the consumer guarantees under the ACL which are already incorporated into Queensland State law. In this sense, there is no new ‘lemon law’ provision under the QCAT Bill which would give Queensland consumers any greater warranty than consumers already benefit from in other States.
However, the Queensland Government has also foreshadowed lobbying for further amendments to the Australian Consumer Law in pursuit of a ‘lemon law’. For example, in the explanatory speech accompanying the QCAT Bill, the Queensland Government foreshadowed seeking a reform to the Australian Consumer Law to introduce a right of refund in the event that a motor vehicle becomes immobile or un-driveable because of a fault within the first 60 days of ownership.
At this stage, it is not clear whether the QCAT Bill will be enacted unchanged.
This article was written by Evan Stents, Partner and Christian Teese, Senior Associate.
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