WA consumer complaints about used vehicle defects skyrocket

This announcement is for: 
ConsumerMotor industry
  • Strong demand results in 730% increase in complaints over five years
  • Delivery delays for new models and sale of flood-affected used vehicles blamed
  • Consumer Protection recovered $6 million for vehicle buyers in the past two years

The number of consumer complaints relating to the sale of defective second-hand motor vehicles in WA has skyrocketed, increasing 730% over the past five years and reaching a peak in 2022.

A total of 431 complaints were lodged with Consumer Protection last year and 346 in 2021. This compares to only 52 in 2018; 62 in 2019; and 173 in 2020. In many cases, the vehicles broke down within a few days of purchase and, in some cases, shortly after they were driven out of the car yard.

The dramatic increase, particularly in the past two years, is due to a surge in the demand for used vehicles as deliveries of new vehicles were delayed by COVID-19 restrictions. Another contributing factor is believed to be flood-affected vehicles from the eastern states being sold in WA.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Trish Blake warns buyers to be extra vigilant in the current over-heated used vehicle market.

“The strong demand has enticed some sellers to off-load vehicles that may be defective, but unsuspecting buyers may not find out until it’s too late,” Ms Blake said.

“While specific warranties related to used vehicles may not apply or have expired, consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) may still apply, so don’t take no for an answer when asking the seller for a refund, repair or replacement in the event of defects being discovered.

“Even though used vehicles are selling like hot cakes at the moment, don’t be hasty and take the time to get the vehicle inspected to make sure it’s mechanically sound. Also do checks on the PPSR website to find out more about the vehicle’s history, such as if it’s been written-off or has money still owing on it.

“These checks are essential especially considering that written-off vehicles from flood-affected regions in the eastern states are being sold in WA.

“We question the need for consumers to pay more for extended warranties as their ACL rights should adequately cover them without any extra cost, so we would strongly advise buyers to decline these offers.

“As private sales are not covered by consumer law, buyers who choose this option need to exercise extra caution before making a purchase, as there will be no recourse available to them if something goes wrong.”

A total of 427 buyers who lodged complaints with Consumer Protection in 2022 received refunds amounting to $2.4 million. In 2021, 624 consumers received a total of $3.7 million in redress.

“These figures show that we have a good success rate when resolving complaints and obtaining refunds for consumers, so don’t hesitate to come to us if the vehicle seller is not being responsive in resolving issues and you need some help,” Ms Blake said.

A warning about the sale of storm or flood-damaged vehicles was issued last year:

Fears flood-damaged vehicles will be dumped on WA market – 28 April 2022

Specific information about storm or flood damaged vehicles is available on the Consumer Protection website. Personal Property Securities Register (PPSR) checks can be made online at a small cost of $2.

Complaints relating to vehicle sales can be lodged via the Consumer Protection website or enquiries can be made by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.


Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / cpmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au  

Consumer Protection
Media release
10 Jan 2023

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