ACCC report reveals unsatisfactory treatment of caravan customers.
Caravan owners have been reminded of their consumer rights following a report into the industry which found widespread misrepresentation by suppliers and delays in the delivery and repair of vans.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) New caravan retailing report highlights concerns in the new caravans market and guides businesses about their obligations to comply with Australian Consumer law.
In an ACCC survey of 2,270 caravan owners, 80% reported having experienced problems with their new caravan.
The number of consumer complaints to the ACCC about the caravan industry continues to rise, reaching more than 1,300 in the past five years.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said a caravan could represent the buyer's significant financial and emotional investment.
“Some people save for years in anticipation of purchasing and travelling in a caravan. If something goes wrong, the harm can be significant,” Ms Rickard said.
The ACCC said under Australian Consumer Law if your caravan failed to meet one or more consumer guarantees, for example, it was not of acceptable quality or did not match a description made by a supplier, then you were entitled to a remedy – either a replacement, refund or repair from the supplier.
It also said it was important to note that multiple minor failures could be considered a major failure, which entitled customers to their choice of a refund or replacement.
Many consumers reported to the ACCC that when they experienced a failure with their caravan, they could not obtain a remedy or that the remedy provided did not fully address the failure.
“We are very concerned by these reported failures to comply with obligations under the Australian Consumer Law, and the impact that these failures have on consumers who have purchased a caravan which develops a fault,” Ms Rickard said.
“Consumers need to be confident that when they make a significant financial purchase like a caravan, they will be able to get a refund, replacement or a repair if there is a failure.
“It is the ACCC’s view that it is reasonable to expect a new caravan won’t develop a major fault within the first several years of use.”
The ACCC was also concerned that many consumers believed suppliers had misled them during the sales process or when problems with their caravan arose.
“If your caravan has a major or minor consumer guarantee failure you may be entitled to a remedy even if the warranty provided by the business has expired,” Ms Rickard said.
Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA) CEO Stuart Lamont said the ACCC report was a timely reminder of supplier and manufacturer obligations under Australian Consumer Law.
“While the vast majority of industry businesses understand and adhere to their consumer obligations and supplier indemnification responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law, there always remain opportunities for individual improvement,” Mr Lamont said.
“The purchase of a caravan is not only a large financial purchase but one which is tied with much emotion, and is highly valued and aspirational.
“The national body will work closely with industry in assisting them to further understand their obligations in dealing with consumers, and industry businesses along the supply chain, so that consumer expectations are met.”
The CIAA said the industry had been under enormous pressure because of unprecedented demand from Australians looking to experience the caravanning and camping lifestyle and supply issues generated out of COVID-19 labour shortages and supply chain delays, primarily out of China.
Consumers also reported they believed suppliers made misrepresentations about their caravan’s performance capabilities and tow weight.
“Reports of misleading representations about caravan’s tow weight and other important performance capabilities are particularly worrying given the grave safety implications for consumers,” Ms Rickard said.
“The ACCC will investigate and take enforcement action against suppliers and manufacturers we believe may have misled consumers.”
The report also found that many consumers experienced delays in the delivery of their new caravan or for repairs to their existing caravan, some of which related to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions and recent increased demand.
“We expect that suppliers will be upfront with consumers about the timeframe for delivery of their caravan and any potential delays during the sales process and continue to proactively communicate until delivery,” Ms Rickard said.
The ACCC has released guidance for buying a new caravan to help consumers and businesses understand their rights and obligations when buying and selling caravans.
The ACCC has also developed information for the caravan industry to assist in complying with the requirements of consumer and competition laws.
The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.