Dozo Car Sales has been ordered to pay $2,150 to a vulnerable consumer after it refused, within a reasonable time, to provide a refund on a defective car and, instead, bought it back at a reduced price. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ordered Dozo to pay the $2000 difference between the original sale price and the price it bought the car back for, as well as $150 which Dozo claimed was for an oil change.
The case was run with the assistance of the Consumer Action Law Centre and argued that Dozo’s failures to have faults related to the airbag system and leaking power steering fluid repaired within a reasonable time represented a major fault and warranted a refund.
‘Under Australian consumer law you’re entitled to a refund if a product has a major fault – it’s clear and simple. Dozo acknowledged there was a problem with the airbag and was given numerous chances to fix it but failed to do so,’ said Gerard Brody of Consumer Action Law Centre.
‘Unfortunately when Dozo denied the customer a refund it concocted a deal which saw it buy the car back for $2000 less than it had been sold for. VCAT ruled this was a breach of the ‘consumer guarantees’ section of the Australian Consumer Law,’ said Mr Brody.
The case also illustrates the significant barriers some consumers face when trying to assert their rights.
‘When Dozo refused a refund and offered to buy the car back at a discounted rate our client had little option but to sell the car because, as a disability support pensioner, she couldn’t afford to have that money tied up in a long running dispute,’ said Mr Brody.
‘This is why consumer legal centres are so valuable, because we can help those who for one reason or another are unable to get a fair outcome on their own. This case had all the hallmarks of a typical community legal centre case – the client was financially vulnerable, has limited English skills, and was up against a trader who was playing outside the consumer law.’
Mr Brody said the Australian Consumer Law is a powerful tool for consumers, but it is important that community legal centres are funded to help Australians use it effectively.