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August 2019
     

 


Colin Young

Mr Young: broadside

'Shocking culture" under fire

Consumer laws sadly lacking, says independent body

Have your say

THE independent Caravan Council of Australia has fired a broadside at consumer protection legislation.

Founder and general manager Colin Young a member of the Institution of Engineers Australia believes consumer laws are sadly lacking.

"The real-world situation for consumers, especially for caravan buyers, is in horrible and serious contrast to their 'honourable' intentions," he said.

"One would reasonably expect that all problems, whether minor defects or major failures, would be promptly and professionally rectified by the supplier at no cost to the consumer.

"With just a few respected exceptions, the truth is ever so far away from this expectation as can be verified by the very large number of highly-aggrieved caravan (and camper-trailer) owners who have regrettably been the victims of such stressful and costly experiences in trying to have their problems rectified."

Mr Young claims there is a "shocking culture" among suppliers, manufacturers and importers to rigorously ward off complaints by customers with legitimate problems.


'Extremely rare for suppliers to admit genuine problems'


He maintained it was extremely rare for a supplier to admit there was a genuine problem despite professional independent evidence.

From the many "appalling and distressing accounts by unhappy campers", it was blatantly obvious that it was standard practice for companies to:

*  Use "every trick in the book" to delay legal action against them, hoping complainants will eventually give up.
*  Deny any wrongdoing or non-compliance often blaming the owner for causing the problem.
*  Engage high-level legal assistance, hoping or knowing the owner could not afford a solicitor and the cost of litigation.
* Attempt to thwart litigation with scare tactics such as "you will lose" and "you will also have to pay our costs".


Mr Young blamed caravan problems and subsequent complaints on serious non-compliances with regulations, vehicle technical requirements and consumer protection provisions.

"Many, if not most, caravanners have never been involved in litigation or been in a court or tribunal and are not solicitors or engineers.

"How can they possibly compete with an opponent who has such vital resources available to them?"

He said that without the costly professional assistance of a solicitor, they faced a "horrible and stressful uphill battle" to win their case.

"Their solicitor will require them to pay for, and provide, an Expert Witness Report to support their claims.

"And their solicitor will usually require them to pay their legal fees in advance ... win or lose."

Mr Young described many suppliers and manufacturers as "extremely defiant" ... not willing to settle without going to an administrative tribunal or court.

"This malicious delaying tactic further increases the stress and frustration on the caravanner, who is often elderly," he said.

"Win or lose, it is certainly not fun having to be involved in litigation when all you wanted was to buy a safe, fully-compliant, suitable, high-quality and reliable caravan to enjoy travelling around our great country.

"Sadly, far too often, caravanners end up with a devastating nightmare ... not the 'dream' portrayed in the sales brochure."

Mr Young said nearly all upset buyers believed that in hindsight they should have been a lot more careful, done their "homework" more thoroughly, not been so gullible by believing everything they were told and should have heeded other people's experiences.

To assist all potential-buyers, the Caravan Council of Australia has prepared a series of free informative documents.

Potential-buyers can obtain the latest Buyer-Assist package for free by emailing caravancouncil@optusnet.com.au

It contains independent and helpful detailed checklists and vital questions to ask dealers before signing contracts.

"Hopefully by doing their homework more diligently, buyers will avoid the disastrous financial and mental ordeals that many fellow caravanners have suffered," Mr Young added.

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