Buying a new caravan

Consumer guarantee rights when buying a new caravan

Under Australian law, products and services that consumers buy come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what they’re supposed to do. These are called the 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.

Consumer guarantees may apply even after the manufacturer’s warranty expires

Caravans are expensive consumer goods, which consumers expect to use for many years. Some manufacturers’ warranties may be limited to one to 2 years.

However, in the ACCC’s view, it is reasonable for a consumer to expect that a new caravan won’t for example, develop a major defect for several years of use.

Where there is a major defect in a caravan, consumers 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.

Repair, replacement, refund rights for consumers

Remedies available under consumer law include repair, replacement or refund.

The type of remedy available depends on whether the failure to comply with a consumer guarantee is a minor or major failure.

Minor failure

A minor failure to comply with a consumer guarantee is generally one that can be easily fixed and does not stop the consumer from using the caravan. The supplier may choose to repair the failure or replace the caravan or refund the consumer.

Major failure

A major failure is one for example that makes the caravan unfit for its purpose. Where there is a major failure to comply with a consumer guarantee, 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, even if considered individually appear minor and unrelated, suggest an unacceptable build quality
  • extensive failures with many failed repair attempts over a period or
  • 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.

Supplier rights and responsibilities when selling new caravans

Suppliers must not accept payment under certain conditions

Suppliers must not accept payment if they know or should have known that they won’t be able to supply the caravan within the timeframe quoted or within a reasonable timeframe.

Where the 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 harsh, oppressive or beyond hard commercial bargaining. The 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, including about remedies 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 making potential misrepresentations about:

  • the caravan’s tow weight
  • the supplier’s responsibility to provide remedies 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 and
  • 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 a serious risk of 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.

Next steps if you think you have been misled

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.

Get help contacting a business or taking a problem further

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.

Make a report to the ACCC

See also

New caravan retailing: Ensuring industry compliance with the Australian Consumer Law

Consumer guarantees

Repairs, replacements, refunds