Plea for ‘lemon laws’ after dud car broken
THE campaign by a Sunshine Coast man to have "lemon laws" introduced into Queensland is gaining traction with Attorney General Yvette D'Ath signalling she will raise the matter with other states and the Commonwealth.
Ashton Wood attracted international attention when he crowdfunded on social media to help underwrite the cost of destroying his $50,000 Jeep, which he claimed was riddled with faults the manufacturer would not address.
Lemon laws were introduced in the USA 35 years ago to increase consumer protection.
Ms D'Ath told the Daily she was also concerned that protection for used car buyers was cut last year by the Newman Government when it removed warranty protection for older cars.
"I am not convinced that Queenslanders get the best or the fairest consumer protection when it comes to used cars,'' she said.
"It is an area that I believe needs to be examined and reviewed and I will be talking extensively with stakeholders about how these laws are working.
"I will also consult on whether or not we need 'lemon laws' as they exist in some overseas jurisdictions. Lemon laws can protect new car buyers by entitling them to refunds in some situations; for example, by setting limits on how many times a new car can be repaired before it is classed as a 'lemon'.
"As this is a national issue, also of concern to Queenslanders, I plan to raise it with my fellow fair trading Ministers and the Commonwealth Minister."
Mr Wood welcomed the Attorney General's announcement, saying Ms D'Ath had offered support from early on in his campaign.
"Too many people who spend their hard-earned money have nowhere to go when things go wrong,'' he said.
Mr Wood destroyed his Jeep in an act of well-publicised frustration at the 21 faults he says made it dangerous.
With more than three million hits on his Facebook page, an hilarious appearance last week on the ABC's Checkout program and anger still burning bright, the Maroochydore man has teamed with others dissatisfied with the performance of their new car buys to push for the introduction in Queensland of legislation first introduced in the United States in the mid-1970s.
And he said manufacturers who did not respond to genuine complaints about the vehicles they released for sale should expect to see more displays of customer frustration in the form of video-ed car destruction events that would then be circulated on social media.
Fiat Chrysler, which distributes Jeep vehicles in Australia, has refused to comment on the specifics of Mr Wood's complaints, nor address other questions put by the Daily.
"In all circumstances, FCA Australia works with their customers to reach mutually agreeable outcomes, but it is not possible to reach an agreed outcome in every case. We will not be making any further comments on this matter," a spokesperson said.
Mr Wood said his $50,000 Jeep might be dead and buried, but its ghost would haunt the manufacturer and distributor.
A petition has been lodged with the State Parliament calling for the removal of the $25,000 QCAT limit on matters it can hear to allow issues relating to expensive faulty new vehicles.
Another has also been lodged asking for the introduction to Queensland of so-called "lemon laws" that have been in place in various states in the United States for the past 35 years.
It suggests Queensland follow the lead of Kansas, which requires vehicles to be replaced or the owner refunded where there are either three major issues, nine minor issues or one major matter that affects safety.
"I work hard for my money,'' Mr Wood said. "I took it personally."
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Crowdfunding took the sting out of $18,900 of the $25,000 he still owed when he invited people to swing sledgehammers at the vehicle and attack it with crowbars before the heavy machinery was brought in to finish it off.
Mr Wood spent $5000 on the day, two bands played for the crowd and he hired a film crew to record the event and post it on social media.
He says he has since been approached by people with similar problems keen to follow suit if the residual of their loan is covered by crowdfunding.
And he has joined forces with Connie Cicchini and Stuart Lette, two other consumers who say they have not received sufficient resolution of issues with their Fiat Chrysler vehicles.
Ms Cicchini has run two political campaigns with Katter's Australian Party and started a lobby group called Lemon Laws 4 Aus for the introduction of better consumer laws.
Mr Lette has started his own social media page, Lemon Vehicles in Aus.
"Australia is decades behind with their consumer protection laws," he said.
"In many instances it is the customer who ends up enduring addition financial and emotional hardship for these faulty new vehicles,"
Mr Wood has urged anybody experiencing problems with a new vehicle that have not been resolved by the dealership or the importer/manufacturer, to lodge a complaint with the ACCC.
June, 2010: Bought car - immediate fuel line problems at dealership.
August, 2011: After being towed twice, pushed once and with nine faults approached Office of Fair Trading.
March, 2014: After 17th fault demands meeting with Chrysler in Melbourne. Flies down with solicitor. Offered a new battery.
Complains to QCAT. Hearing held but dismissed because matter involved more than $25,000
June, 2014: Launches Destroy My Jeep campaign.
October, 2014: Ashton Wood pays $4900 to run a Destroy My Jeep Day which reduces his $50,000 vehicle to small pieces.
April, 2015: Facebook page reaches three million views. Qld Attorney General to consult other states on introduction of lemon laws.