ARCA

Uncollected Vehicles Creating Havoc at Automotive Workshops

Automotive service and repair workshops across the country are dealing with the costly and inconvenient issue of uncollected vehicles, while outdated regulations hinder their ability to effectively resolve the situation.

In most Australian states and territories, the current uncollected goods laws are archaic and do not serve to protect the interests of those parties most regularly affected and disadvantaged by these laws, which is automotive workshops.

The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) regularly receive queries from business owners who are justifiably frustrated with their inability to either remove/dispose of an uncollected vehicle from their property or sell the vehicle to recoup unpaid expenses for parts and labour.

The most common scenario facing workshops is when tow truck drivers unload a vehicle at their premises that has been recovered from the side of the road. Either contact is never established with the owner or the owner decides the car is not their problem anymore and ignores requests from the workshop.

Another scenario workshops encounter is when mechanical work is quoted or undertaken to a customer vehicle that can in some instances outweigh the value of the car.  The vehicle owner may refuse to accept the quote or refuse to pay for parts and services rendered and then cut off communication to avoid resolving the matter.  Through no fault of their own, the workshop must deal with the negative consequences of this stranded vehicle which are numerous and significant.

In the first instance, there is the time and stress associated with trying to contact the owner of the vehicle to have it retrieved and if required, payment made. With no successful result, the workshop then must work through the often-unclear process of what their rights are and the steps they need to take to solve the situation.

For small workshops with limited space, particularly those in inner city locations, the daily issue becomes storing and parking the vehicle. Pushing the vehicle onto the street may incur parking fines or risk the car being towed, while having the car allocate a space that a paying customer’s vehicle may occupy, or a bay in the workshop is an unacceptable financial burden. 

In most Australian state’s values for uncollected goods and the timeframes to legally dispose of goods are out of touch with what automotive workshops require.

In Queensland the situation for workshop owners is particularly untenable.  The Uncollected Goods Act was introduced in 1967 and lists the retention period for holding and disposing of uncollected goods as six months, plus the time on top of this to obtain a court order. For a small workshop to have to manage an additional vehicle that has not been collected for six months is unacceptable.

“Although this may not seem like a large industry issue, the stories we hear from members and the broader industry are both regular and troubling. State laws need to be updated to better support businesses bearing the brunt of uncollected vehicles,” said Stuart Charity, CEO of the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association.  

The good news is there has been positive movement on uncollected goods acts in recent times. From 1st July 2020, NSW will implement amendments that shorten retention periods of uncollected goods based on much higher item value ranges, that better reflects vehicle values. 

Following in NSW’s footsteps, both Western Australia and Tasmania are in the process of reviewing their respective uncollected goods acts. The AAAA has written a submission to the Western Australian Government on behalf of members with their preferred outcomes, which are closer in line with updated NSW regulations.

For AAAA members, a free Legal Hotline provides advice to workshops on how they should deal with their uncollected vehicle situation. The number is 1300 369 703 – please quote your member number.

We hope drawing more attention to this important issue, seeking industry feedback and preparing submissions to governments will help bring about necessary change.

If you have any suggestions around uncollected goods legislation amendments or further insights on the issue of uncollected vehicles, please email advocacy@aaaa.com.au.

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