Sour over lemon law 'backflip'

THE State Opposition has accused the Government of ditching an election promise to give car buyers more protection.

The Government announced it would bring in “lemon laws” during its 2006 election campaign.

It said the laws would give consumers the right to an exchange or refund when a car they bought had a major fault that could not be repaired within a reasonable time.

Government spokesman Michael Sinclair said last week that the law would now be considered under a national consumer legislation, coming into effect from 2011.

Mr Sinclair said the Federal and State Governments were working together on the law, which would be based on the 1974 Trade Practices Act and that Victorian car buyers already enjoyed “significant protections” from the “implied provisions” of the 1997 Fair Trading Act.

“(The current laws) require goods sold to be of merchantable quality, or fit for sale and correspond with any descriptions given to the consumer,” Mr Sinclair said.

“These laws apply to motor car sales and give consumers the legal right to recover their money if they buy a lemon.”

In September last year Consumer Affairs Minister Tony Robinson said manufacturers were required only to repair defects during the warranty period with no obligation to replace or refund a defective vehicle.

Kilsyth state Liberal MP David Hodgett asked why the Government pledged to introduce the law if the present laws gave consumers adequate protection.

“Why would John Brumby, in his first statement as Premier, confirm that the Labor Government was committed to introducing lemon laws?” Mr Hodgett said.

“Mr Brumby has done a clear backflip and in doing so has left Victorians unprotected and exposed at a time when our economic climate is at its worst.”

Campaigner says squeeze needed

CROYDON’S Helen Moss knows first hand about the dangers of buying a “lemon”.

Ms Moss has been campaigning for the introduction of lemon laws since she paid more than $71,000 for a new car in 1996, only to find it had faulty steering.

The car got fixed, but it took nearly 10 years.

“My lemon car cost me my horticultural business, my health and nearly everything I ever owned,” Ms Moss said.

“I am now on a disability pension as a direct result of the appalling behaviour of car dealers and manufacturer representatives towards me.”

Ms Moss said she was verbally abused several times during her ordeal.

“It became psychological warfare,” she said.

“These people are likely to yell, lie and abuse you because it is cheaper than to fix the problem.”

Ms Moss, well known in Maroondah’s horticultural circles, said she “thought it was all over” when the Government promised to introduce the laws at the 2006 election.

“I was really keen to get Labor elected on that promise but now I think it is appalling that they have swept it under the carpet, hoping no one notices,” she said.

“They say it now won’t come in until 2011.  I feel sorry for the thousands of people who will have to be subjected to the same thing I was in.”