ACCC recommends new protections for car buyers


Mark Bristow

Mark Bristow

( 3 min read )

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After 18 months of research, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its recommendations for future changes and regulations for Australia’s car retailing industry, to help protect Aussie car buyers.

The three main findings of the ACCC report are: 

  • 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.

Are car warranties too confusing?

Car dealers have direct responsibility to provide remedies to consumers in relation to car warranties, 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.

ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, said that the unnecessarily complex warranty claim processes from some car manufacturers can leave dealers inadequately compensated for repairs or remedies provided to consumers, which 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 will take action if a manufacturer prevents a dealer from fulfilling their legal obligations under consumer law.”

Can you choose who fixes your car?

The ACCC found that many independent repairers have problems accessing technical information to repair and service new cars, limiting the options available to car owners of who can reliably look after their vehicles.

With this in mind, the ACCC recommends introducing a mandatory scheme, on fair and reasonable terms, requiring car manufacturers to share environmental, safety and security-related technical information with the independent sector.

How fuel-efficient is your car, really? 

The ACCC’s research found that after price and model, fuel consumption is the third most significant purchasing factor for Australian car buyers. However, these car buyers may not be receiving accurate information about fuel consumption or emissions performance, with research from the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) finding real-world fuel consumption to be 23% higher on average than official laboratory test results. 

According to the ACCC, introducing an on-road ‘real driving emissions’ test, rather than relying solely on laboratory testing, could give new car buyers more accurate information to inform their decisions.

AAA chief executive, Michael Bradley, said that many Australians are just not getting the vehicle that they are paying for, and that the ACCC recommendations could greatly improve consumer knowledge and choice:

“Australian motorists deserve to have all the relevant information in front of them when purchasing a vehicle.  Apart from having the ability to make a fully informed choice, the recommendations will help diminish vehicle emissions without drastic costs or reducing the choice of vehicle available.”

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