Roma must refund buyer's $83,000 plus
caravan deemed a major
failure following 'wobble and sway'
A Roma Elegance caravan
By Dennis Amor
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A COURT has
ordered a Victorian caravan manufacturer, which claims
to be the oldest established caravan builder
in the world, to refund $83,000 to the owner of an overweight caravan
which developed a "wobble and sway" at speed.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal also directed Roma
Caravans to pay $9277.80 in interest to Peter Cunningham, who bought the
Roma Elegance Slide-Out for trips, including a round-Australia sojourn.
heard that despite the VIN plate showing 2700kg, two later checks put the
weight at 3560kg and 3360kg.
Tribunal Member Jacquellyn Kefford said this amounted to "a major failure"
of the luxury caravan.
"I am satisfied that no reasonable consumer, fully acquainted with the
nature and extent of the failure, would regard the caravan to be of
acceptable quality," she said.
"While noting that two experts have recorded weights that differ by 200kg,
the highest payload proposed of 160kg is entirely inadequate for the use
and enjoyment of a reasonable consumer of the experience of caravanning.
"A reasonable caravanner would not risk the attention of police and a fine
for overweight. A reasonable caravanner would
require safety as a priority."
The tribunal heard that Mr Cunningham chose Roma Caravans because of its
advertised 90-year experience.
He had discussed his travel plans with the company,
saying he would be using a Mazda BH50 which had a towing capacity
and no fault found'
His first trip
was to Anglesea during which he had experienced what he described as
wobble and sway.
He reported his concerns by telephone to Roma but was told the Mazda was
the cause of the problem. He later had his vehicle mechanically checked
and no fault was found.
After researching the internet to learn about
sway he again reported the problem but Roma allegedly told him they built
hundreds of caravans like his and that there was nothing wrong with it.
Mr Cunningham's next trip was to Wodonga during which the caravan again
swayed at speeds of 80-85km/h.
It was returned to Roma for warranty work and to have the sway
investigated. Again, the manufacturer had repeated that the cause of the
sway was not due to the caravan.
Engineer Terrence McNicol told the tribunal he had later driven Mr
Cunningham's Mazda on the Hume Highway with the caravan in tow.
He said the caravan performed satisfactorily up to 70km/h but "swayed
tremendously" at 80-90 km/h.
He concluded the caravan was not safe for road use and the weight did not
conform with the VIN plate.
Roma asked the tribunal to allow it to make the caravan compliant with
relevant design dimensions and to rectify the VIN plate.
But a report by Edward van den Berg from BTT Engineering Consulting
concluded: "After inspecting the caravan on site and receiving supporting
documentation from the client it is our belief that the caravan is both
overweight and also over-length at the rear,
with the manufacturer being responsible for both of these issues.
"The caravan exceeds legal limits and component ratings at tare mass.
"As it has been plated with a load-carrying
capacity of 800kg it is our belief that the caravan is not fit for purpose
as it is impossible to safely and legally achieve what has been promised
to the customer via the compliance plate without having to replace a
significant portion of the caravan's structural components."
Delivering her findings, Ms Kefford said Mr
Cunningham had relied on the 14 years' experience, skill and judgment of
Roma salesman Lee Mason.
She said Roma had been given two early opportunities to investigate the
sway but it chose not to do so; the failures could not be remedied easily
and within a reasonable time; the caravan was
unsafe and illegal if loaded over 160kg and that the average owner of a
tandem-axle caravan required a minimum load-carrying capacity of 400kg
(Caravan Industry Association of Australia Owners Handbook, page 57).
Roma must collect the caravan
within 14 days of the money
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