Lawmakers in Queensland are gathering evidence to pressure the Australian government into enacting lemon laws that will protect new car buyers. Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said that lemon laws, which have been operating in the United States since 1975, would make it easier for a new car buyer to get a replacement car or to receive a refund if the vehicle turns out to have repeated problems or faults. Vehicles that have repeated problems are generally known as "lemons." Used car lemon laws usually cover anything that is mechanical. D'Ath noted that the lemon law for cars in the United States actually limits the number of times a car has to be repaired and limits the amount of time that the vehicle is off the road. Evidence backing the proposal for Australian lemon laws will be submitted to review by the federal government next year.
The attorney-general's push for used car lemon laws came in response to a small number of Queenslanders who have been advocating federal attention on the matter for a prolonged period. One of the advocators who played a large role was Ashton Wood of the Sunshine Coast. His frustration and anger about his "lemon" Jeep ended with the deliberate destruction of the car. According to Wood, the dealer had refused to replace the car despite the numerous and continuous problems. Another advocator was Stewart Lette, who drove a 2013 Fiat Freemont and complained about five years of ongoing trouble with the transmission, the steering, and the fact that the car devoured fuel. The most serious problem concerned the automatic transmission, which was replaced but still caused problems. Lette said he asked for a refund when the transmission was replaced, but was told that was impossible.
If the lemon law for cars is enacted in Australia, it would also consider lifting the limit on lemon law cases reviewed by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). At present, such consumer cases deal only with a money level up to $25,000.
Chairman of the Australian Automotive Dealers Association, Ian Field, supported the enactment of a lemon law. However, his concern was "what's the problem?" There was no trouble with a broken-down car that could not be fixed, according to Field, who claimed that the thousands of cars being driven on the road are actually repairable. "That's what the lemons are," Field said.
Lemon laws in the United States cover all 50 states, although there are variations in each. The federal U.S. lemon law as well as most state lemon laws may require the dealer to pay for the car owner's attorney if his or her suit is successful.
Attorney-General D'Ath said she had heard some shocking stories about cars that are lemons, such as the fact that in some cases "year after year, sometimes five years ...
the car's still going in for a month at a time being repaired and yet the dealer's not willing to replace the vehicle." The Australian used cars lemon laws would be aimed at eliminating that problem.