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APRIL 2020
     

 


Roma must refund buyer's $83,000 plus interest

Overweight caravan deemed a major
failure following 'wobble and sway'

A Roma Elegance caravan

A Roma Elegance caravan

By Dennis Amor
Have your say

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.

The tribunal 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 of 3500kg.


'Mechanically checked 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 being paid.

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