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Federal push for national lemon law to protect car owners

ACCC is probing manufacturer conduct "in the context of guarantee obligations"

Momentum is building for a national "lemon law" to help owners of dodgy cars, with a federal MP declaring support for increased protection.

The push comes amid revelations consumer cops are examining "vehicle manufacturer conduct". Senator Ricky Muir, of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, wants the review to consider "greater consumer protection" on cars.

The Consumer Action Law Centre has called for a law that defines a lemon as "a vehicle that has been repaired at least three times by the manufacturer or importer and the vehicle still has a defect - or if the vehicle is out of service for 20 or more days in total due to a defect".

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is probing manufacturer conduct "in the context of guarantee obligations". Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody said it would also argue for a switch in the "onus of proof" for at least the first six months.

"The trader should be required to prove that the goods are of an acceptable quality rather than this burden sitting with the consumer," he said. "We find that recalcitrant traders repeatedly repair cars and say they are working when they aren't.

"This requires consumers to complain and complain and end up in the tribunal which can mean they give up." Federal Minister for Consumer Affairs Bruce Billson revealed the ACCC investigation yesterday. Of the existing law, he said: 'If you buy a motor vehicle and it has a major failure, you have the right to choose between a refund or a replacement product. 

While not called a -lemon law, consumer guarantees can provide similar redress." But he said the review "will be an opportunity to test how well the law is working".

Melbourne couple Laura Puig and Jim Chitsos say they took their 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee back to three dealers 14 times in six months of ownership due to a noisy engine. Jeep says it is a "characteristic" of that engine. The owners disagree and still want a refund. There is no suggestion that Jeep is the subject of the ACCC investigation.