The Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) has welcomed an Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) statement re-affirming that car owners can get their vehicle serviced by an independent repairer, using “appropriate quality” parts and qualified staff, and still maintain their manufacturer’s or extended warranty coverage.
In November last year the AAAA lodged a submission with the ACCC which outlined a range of concerns relating to car manufacturer’s warranties and log book wording.
“Although the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) have been in place for a number of years, we believe many car companies are continuing to offer warranties which are likely to contravene consumer protection legislation and are engaging in practices which may be in breach of competitive conduct provisions of the CCA,” said AAAA Executive Director Stuart Charity.
Stuart Charity said among the common practices were:
- Failure to provide adequate information to consumers on their statutory rights for remedies under the warranty against defects provisions of the ACL.
- Rewording of vehicle log books to state that the service has been carried out by an authorised service department of the vehicle manufacturer using “genuine parts and lubricants”.
- The increasing trend of competitors in the car industry mirroring their warranty practices.
“We put the view to the ACCC that such practices cannot be adequately abated by consumer education and business compliance strategies and instead require an enforcement approach. We believe this behaviour is designed to confuse consumers’ understanding of their legal rights,” he said.
“Over many years, car manufacturers and their dealers have promulgated the myth to car owners that they risk voiding their warranty unless their car is serviced by an authorised dealer using parts supplied by the vehicle maker during the warranty period.
“The reality is that consumers have always had statutory rights under Australian law to ensure that their manufacturers’ warranties remain valid when the vehicles are serviced by independent workshops using fit for purpose parts and qualified technicians.
“As a direct result of the AAAA submission, we understand that the ACCC launched a review into documentation, including log books, warranty documents and training materials, from a number of major car manufacturers.
“The ACCC identified a range of concerns with respect to compliance to the ACL and CCA. On the log book issue, the ACCC determined that the wording was misleading and confusing for consumers.
“The ACCC subsequently wrote to those manufacturers outlining the concerns and strongly encouraged them to review their compliance systems and processes to avoid further action being taken.
“The AAAA congratulates the ACCC on investigating this important consumer issue and for releasing this statement to provide clarity and reassurance to independent repairers and their customers.
“The ACCC statement is definitive. It clarifies the law for all involved and importantly confirms that an independent repairer can stamp a vehicle log book on completion of the service – regardless of the wording in that log book – without affecting the manufacturer’s warranty.
“This ACCC response is a significant win for Australian car owners and the automotive aftermarket industry. We will now work to alert the independent repairer and parts sector – and their customers – to this outcome.
It is also important to draw attention to the difference between manufacturers’ warranties and any warranties sold separately by car dealers.
“We are distributing the ACCC statement to industry and consumer media outlets and we hope it is published widely.
“The AAAA aim is to maintain a level playing field in our industry. We want to ensure that Australian car owners retain the right to choose their preferred repairer based on proximity, service, price and relationships,” said Stuart Charity.
To view a copy of the statement please CLICK HERE.