Buyer beware

Minister concedes there are risks for consumers with new parallel import laws

TOBY HAGON

The dangers involving recalls is one of a number of safety holes the industry has fired at the parallel imports plan

THE federal government will not force owners to fix safety faults on vehicles they import privately from 2018 as part of its controversial new private vehicle imports plan.

Currently, vehicle safety recalls are conducted by vehicle importers at no cost to the owner, but the 30,000 people expected to import vehicles privately once local manufacturing closes will only be informed of recalls, not forced to undertake them.

Considering the cost of fixing potential safety faults, which could run into thousands of dollars and include brakes, airbags, electrical systems or engines, some owners may choose not to bother, potentially endangering their lives, those of their passengers, other road users and those who purchase the car second-hand.

“The Australian government will work with overseas inspection services and consult with local suppliers on options for identifying vehicles subject to an overseas recall,” said Paul Fletcher (pictured), the federal minister responsible for the proposed new laws.

“However, a consumer who chooses to personally import a new vehicle will bear some additional responsibilities.”

The minister’s office also points out that there is no law currently to force recalls, although the fact there is no cost makes it appealing for potential owners.

“The cost of a rectification of a personally imported vehicle subject to a safety recall campaign would be the responsibility of the vehicle owner,” the minister said.

The potential dangers involving recalls is one of a number of safety holes the industry has fired at the plan, which will allow people to directly purchase a car less than 12 months old and with fewer than 500km on the odometer from approved right-hand-drive markets from 2018.

Fletcher promises “more choice” and “less red tape” with the planned reforms, which will allow consumers “to personally import a new car or motorcycle from another country with comparable standards to Australia’s, up to once every two years, if specified conditions are met”.

The CEO of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, said that what had been an “incredibly reckless policy is now just a really bad one”.

“People think these cars are the same around the world and they are not,” Weber said. “They are not built for Australian conditions, especially when it comes to fuel [compatibility].”

Fletcher said under the new scheme all privately imported vehicles would require a thirdparty inspection prior to being allowed on Australian roads.

He said the cars would also go on a register of privately imported vehicles and that potential usedcar purchasers will be encouraged to access that.

Fletcher conceded that there are significant risks involved with purchasing a car directly from overseas or as a second-hand vehicle in Australia.

“There are some factors you’ll have to consider if you go down this path that you don’t need to consider if you go to a dealer in Australia,” Fletcher said.

“There are some risks and issues with this path, so it’s not going to be a path probably that the great majority of people will take.”

HOT CARS FOR SALE

Luxury brands Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have warned that the new import laws could open the door for stolen cars to be sent to Australia.

“How can a consumer tell if the car genuine?” Porsche Cars Australia spokesman Paul Ellis said to Wheels. might be a stolen vehicle. We know the UK there is a market for stealing vehicles to send abroad, so that opens a new market for stolen vehicles to come into Australia.”

Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesman David McCarthy said: “Privately imported vehicles will not enjoy the protection of Australian consumer law these consumers will be on their own.

You’ll be buying a car on the internet L P im s is sp “It in ve up co M Da im pro – th “Y that could be stolen, under finance, written off ... and you’ll have no redress under consumer law.”

Mazda Australia managing director Martin Benders said the government’s “backflip” puts consumers at risk, particularly with differing fuels and emissions standards.

“Cars are not like other products … let’s say you import a Euro 6 car out of Europe and use our 100 parts-permillion sulphur fuel. Degradation from the fuel will occur quite quickly.”

He also warned that Japan-specific features, including multimedia and instrumentation, could be in Japanese rather than English, and sourcing spare parts could be difficult.