- Consumer guarantees apply to caravans.
- If you buy a caravan that fails to meet a consumer guarantee, you may be eligible for a repair or replacement of the caravan, or a refund.
- Caravan manufacturers and suppliers have responsibilities under consumer law.
Consumer guarantee rights when buying a caravan
Under Australian law, products and services that you buy come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what they’re supposed to do. These are called consumer guarantee rights. These rights apply to caravans and other recreational vehicles, such as camper trailers and campervans. They are separate to any manufacturer’s warranty.
If a caravan fails to meet one or more of the consumer guarantees, consumers can ask the business they bought the caravan from – the supplier – for a remedy.
The supplier is usually the dealership. Some manufacturers – the business that made the caravan – sell directly to consumers and can be both a supplier and a manufacturer.
Caravans are expensive consumer goods, which consumers expect to use for many years.
In the ACCC’s view, it is reasonable for a consumer to expect that a new caravan won’t develop a major defect for several years of use. However, some manufacturers’ warranties may only be one to 2 years.
If your caravan has a major defect, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement under the consumer guarantees – even after the expiry of any warranty.
Find out more about warranties and your rights.
If the caravan you buy fails to meet one of the consumer guarantees you may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund. Whether you are eligible for a repair, replacement or refund depends on how major or minor the failure to comply with the consumer guarantee is.
Generally, a minor failure:
- is easily fixed and
- does not stop the consumer from using the caravan.
In this case the supplier may choose to repair the failure or replace the caravan or refund the consumer.
A major failure is generally something that makes the caravan unfit for use. When a major failure occurs, the consumer has the right to ask for their choice of replacement or refund.
Whether a failure is major will depend on an assessment of the caravan. As a guide, courts have found the following to be major failures:
- many failures that suggest an unacceptable build quality – even if individually they appear minor and unrelated
- extensive failures with many failed repair attempts over a period
- water leaks which would interfere with a caravan’s core purpose – such as providing shelter.
Repairs must be completed within a reasonable time
Any repairs must be done within a reasonable timeframe. If not, the consumer can:
- have the repair done by another business and recover costs from the supplier or
- reject the goods and choose a refund or to have the caravan replaced by the supplier.
Suppliers must not accept payment under certain conditions
If a supplier knows they won’t be able to supply a caravan within the timeframe quoted or within a reasonable timeframe they must not accept payment.
When a supplier accepts payment for goods, they must supply the caravan within the period quoted or a reasonable timeframe.
This responsibility doesn’t apply if suppliers are genuinely trying to meet delivery times and:
- the failure was due to events beyond their control and
- the business used reasonable care or caution to avoid the failure.
Suppliers are expected to be proactive and accurate in communicating any delivery delays to consumers. The same applies to any delays to repairs.
Suppliers must not engage in unconscionable conduct.
Suppliers must not engage in unconscionable conduct. This means avoiding behaviour that may be considered:
- beyond hard commercial bargaining.
This responsibility also applies to manufacturers in their engagement with suppliers.
Suppliers must be honest and truthful
Suppliers must be honest and truthful in any statements they make to consumers. They must not make misleading or deceptive statements. This includes statements about repairs, replacements and refunds under consumer law or warranties. Any opinion that the consumer is not entitled to a remedy must be based on a thorough assessment of the failure.
Suppliers should be careful to avoid potential misrepresentations about:
- the caravan’s tow weight
- the supplier’s responsibility to provide a repair, replacement or refund – even if the failure is covered by a third party’s warranty
- the availability of repair and spare parts, including that they are available ‘nation-wide’ if the supplier can’t guarantee this
- the caravan’s performance capabilities, including the use of terms like ‘off-road’ if the supplier can’t guarantee this.
Suppliers should take extra care to explain to consumers any issues that may affect the caravan’s tow weight. This can include things such as when tanks are filled or extras added.
Towing a caravan that weighs more than the consumer’s vehicle’s towing capacity could put the consumer and other road users at risk of serious injury or death.
Suppliers have a right to compensation from the manufacturer
Suppliers have a right to protection or compensation from the manufacturer for providing consumers with their rights under consumer law. For most failures, the compensation includes the cost of the part(s) and other costs, such as labour.
If the failure affects a component, the supplier can choose whether to seek compensation:
- from the caravan manufacturer or
- the relevant component manufacturer, such as the manufacturer of a stove or air-conditioner.
Manufacturers must not misrepresent or downplay the fact that it is their responsibility to compensate suppliers for the cost of providing remedies to consumers.
If a manufacturer refuses to indemnify a supplier, the supplier can take court action against the manufacturer up to 3 years from the date the supplier provided a remedy to a consumer for the consumer guarantee failure.
If you think you’ve been misled your first step is to contact the business to explain the problem.
If the business doesn’t resolve the problem, there are more steps you can take.
Report a problem to the ACCC
You can also report a problem to the ACCC. We use these reports to identify issues that need investigation.