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What does the ACCC say about your warranty

Your new motor vehicle—what are your rights?

An increasing number of new car buyers contact the ACCC about their new car warranty. Specifically, consumers want to know whether their warranty is still valid if they choose to get their vehicle serviced by someone other than an authorised agent of the business that sold the car. The Trade Practices Act contains a number of provisions relevant to this situation: Exclusive dealing generally involves a business attaching conditions to the sale of goods that restrict the buyer's freedom to choose with whom, or in what, they deal. Exclusive dealing, such as full-line forcing (where the consumer is required to purchase two or more items from the same trader) or 'bundling' (where two or more items are sold together as a package), is illegal where it has the purpose or effect of substantially lessening competition. One particular kind of exclusive dealing is 'third line forcing', which involves the supply of goods or services on the condition that the buyer acquires goods from a particular third party. Third line forcing is illegal regardless of its effect on competition. The warranty and refund provisions imply certain minimum standards into all consumer transactions. The goods must be of merchantable quality, be fit for their purpose, and match any description or sample. Businesses are not allowed to make any misrepresentations to consumers about their right to a refund, or limiting their liability in any way.

Expressed and statutory warranties

Expressed warranties are usually specified under the agreement with the dealer; it might state a specific time period, maximum liability and limitations. Expressed warranties operate in addition to statutory warranties, and cannot restrict the provisions of the statutory warranty. For example, the dealer may provide a warranty for one year or 20,000 kilometres, which includes free scheduled servicing and parts. However, this would not in any way affect the statutory warranty that would apply long after the expiration of the one-year voluntary warranty. Generally dealers will be able to place certain conditions on the expressed warranty given to buyers. A consumer may void their expressed warranty if, for example, the car is fitted with non-genuine parts. If this is the case, it is sometimes best to check with the manufacturer before purchase. However, the statutory warranties will continue to apply unless the service of the independent mechanic or the fitting of the non-authorised part caused the fault.

New vehicle warranty

Motor vehicle dealers are entitled to insist that any servicing performed on cars they sell is carried out by qualified staff, according to the manufacturer's specifications, and using genuine or appropriate quality parts where required. Where a problem arises with the vehicle (i.e. other than servicing requirements) that is covered under the warranty, the vehicle should be taken to the dealer for repair.

Qualified staff

Qualified staff is a party or parties, other than an 'authorised dealer', who is capable of performing car servicing.

Manufacturer's specifications

If an independent agent implies that it can perform general car servicing to manufacturers' specifications and does not perform that function satisfactorily, then the consumer has rights and remedies against the agent regardless of whether the agent has factory qualifications or not.

Genuine or appropriate quality parts

The issue here is not who manufactured the part/s, it is whether the part/s are fit or appropriate for the purpose intended. If a part is non-genuine, but is interchangeable with the genuine part, it could be seen as being fit or appropriate for the purpose and would therefore not void the manufacturer's warranty. However, it must also be noted that should the part's installed fail or not perform satisfactorily, the consumer then has rights against the fitter and/or manufacturer of those replacement parts. If the non genuine part fails, and causes some other damage to the vehicle, the dealer will not be liable for damage caused by the failure of that part. Provided these conditions are met, the new car warranty should remain intact. Dealers are not, however, entitled to impose conditions beyond this in an effort to restrict trade, or unreasonably require the purchaser to buy services from an agent of their choice. Dealers are not permitted to limit their obligations under the warranty and refund provisions, or make any representations to this effect, e.g. that the warranty is void if the vehicle is not serviced by the dealer or its agent. Provided consumers do research and ensure that wherever they take a vehicle for servicing, the staff are qualified and all other provisions above are met, the warranty will be safely intact for the warranty period. For further information, see Warranties and refunds.

What does the ACCC say about car servicing

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