RAISE THE QCAT LIMIT. KEEP ELECTION PROMISE, PREMIER!
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During the Queensland election in 2017, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promised to increase the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) limit to $100,000. This is a small claims Tribunal that includes being an informal, cheap, quick and just way for consumers to get redress for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law.
Queensland consumers are still waiting for this to happen. Day after day there are consumers who are being denied their consumer rights by rogue suppliers and who have no recourse against them. The rogues know this and take advantage of it, causing severe consumer detriment in the tens of thousands of dollars. This also takes a massive toll on emotional and physical health.
So as Queensland consumers we are now asking the Palaszczuk government to abide by a very clear election promise to increase the QCAT limit to $100,000 without delay.
However, the $100,000 limit is still going to exclude numerous consumers who cannot afford legal action in the Magistrates or District Courts when they have purchased an expensive product such as a new lemon caravan or new lemon car. These products are now regularly exceeding $100,000 in price without the commensurate quality that would be expected. They are often purchased by elderly people, retirees, people with disabilities, people who sell up everything to travel. These are vulnerable populations, not wealthy and able to just walk away from such a purchase or take expensive and time consuming legal action. And why should they when we are told we have robust consumer protection laws?
In fact, in the 'Lemon Laws' enquiry report, published in November 2015, the government committee members recommended that the QCAT cap be ABOLISHED, the appointment of independent assessors to asses lemon vehicles and a range or other robust consumer protections. Nothing has eventuated in over two years. The government has 'fiddled while Rome burns'.
Queenslanders are also disadvantaged compared to those who purchase in NSW and Victoria, where their Tribunals have no limit for new vehicle claims. The process is still quite onerous but at least there is an avenue for redress when NSW Fair Trading and Victorian Consumer Affairs fob off consumers and claim they can't do anything to help.
This is even more imperative for Queenslanders because the Executive Director of the Queensland Office of Fair Trading wrote:
"The OFT does not have coercive powers to force a trader to comply with its consumer guarantee obligations...
This leaves the application for redress for a failure to meet consumer guarantees as a civil matter between the consumer and trader. The ACL provides the basis upon which a consumer can seek to enforce those rights."
So the Queensland government department tasked with enforcing the Australian Consumer Law claims they can't enforce the ACL and that consumers have to take legal action against suppliers to receive redress. Then the Queensland government further abandons consumers who are saddled with an expensive lemon by not having an accessible and affordable Tribunal to hear their claim.
Queensland consumers are therefore much better off purchasing in NSW or Victoria. This is a detriment to the Queensland economy that could cost in the tens of millions.
So, on behalf of all Queensland consumers, I request that the Queensland government implement a two step process. The first step is to immediately raise the QCAT limit to $100,000 and include caravans and motor homes in any definition of 'motor vehicle', similarly to NSW and Victoria.
The second part is to conduct stakeholder consultations for the QCAT limit to be abolished completely with respect to new vehicle claims. This will bring Queensland into line with NSW and Victoria and go some of the way towards its obligations with respect to agreements on the enforcement of the ACL.
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