Carmakers on notice after landmark ruling
A COUPLE’S successful battle for justice over their dud car is changing the way automakers treat customers.
Jaguar Land Rover Australia has refunded Sally and James Morphy the $280,000 they paid for the top-of-theline Range Rover Autobiography .
The local division of the British carmaker has also been made to cover the Geelong couple’s legal expenses of $140,000 after a lengthy consumer tribunal battle.
JLRA was also forced to pay the dealer’s litigation costs of $150,000 and is also facing an estimated $100,000 for its failed defence.
It adds up to a $670,000 bill for the Morphy’s lemon, which an expert’s report said risked “sudden and catastrophic engine failure” because 10 litres of coolant had leaked into the oil.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found the vehicle unfit for even the most basic functions, let alone the task it was bought for — towing a horse float.
The Geelong couple’s case is now being used by other car manufacturers as an example of how not to treat owners.
It recently featured in a presentation to 800 Volkswagen executives and dealers at a “customer experience” conference in Brisbane. VW marketing director Jason Bradshaw said the case was “cited to reinforce the importance of getting it right (because ) there are real examples of dealerships and brands getting it wrong” .
Consumer law expert Gene Schirripa, of Snedden Hall & Gallop in Canberra, said car companies could not afford to ignore the ruling.
“Because this was such a landmark decision in terms of the Australian Consumer Law as it applies to motor vehicles and because JLRA is a major player I think you will see behavioural shift in terms of the other manufacturers,” Mr Schirripa said. The firm Mills Oakley, which represented the dealer in the Morphy case, has since been contacted by at least three consumers alleging “major failures” and seeking to rely on the ruling to receive a full refund from the manufacturer , not the dealership.
In October last year Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Blair Ussher found “repetitive and undiagnosed failures made the car unreliable … and the prospect of the defect leading to a sudden and catastrophic engine failure rendered the motor car unfit for its basic purpose” .
Then in a separate costs ruling in January this year he again ruled for the couple.
A JLRA spokesman said it had provided the refund “without challenge” , demonstrating the company’s “desire to comply at all times with Australian consumer law and operate at the highest standards morally and ethically” .
But after a 2017 investigation , the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission described the new car retailing industry’s attitude to its obligations under consumer law as “deeply concerning” .
The Morphys are now driving a Porsche Cayenne.