QLD Odometer Tampering - Take to Office of Fair Trading QLD?

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10 December 2014
Hi. I recently purchased a vehicle from a Japanese car import agent who had a newly imported car available from a customer who failed to pay. I inspected the car (still at a compliance centre) and a few days later I bought it. The car came with a 1 month 1000km mechanical warranty. I received a tax invoice, but noticed that there was no ABN or ACN so became suspicious.

I obtained documents from the Japanese Government that showed the vehicle had done more kilometres than what the odometer was showing and claimed by the importer. I put my findings to the importer who said the odometer was changed in Japan and he was not liable and as a broker could only offer me financial compensation to the value of his fees. He didn't disclose the amount. At no point did I discuss or sign any document to have him as my broker and up to this point, he had lead me to believe he was the vehicle importer/owner and was selling it to me in that capacity.

A check of the vehicle registration transfer application revealed the owner to be a motor dealer and not the import business he claimed to operate. He claimed to have no affiliation with the dealer listed on the application, but the signature on the application is his so he must be affiliated? How else could he legally have signed this document?

I didn't receive any of the normal protections/disclosures you would expect when buying from a dealer including the 3 month 5000km warranty for which the car would have qualified. The car has some issues which developed outside of the original 1 month warranty so I never informed the importer, but they did occur within the 3 month warranty time frame of which I should have been entitled to when buying through a dealer. Also, the seating modification plate was not attached to the vehicle and the modification documentation which was delivered a week later stated that the car was inspected and certified 2 days after I took possession of the vehicle!

I intend to take this matter up with the Office of Fair Trading QLD (OFT) as the importer claims no liability and that I would need to prove he tampered with the odometer. He states that he will cooperate with any OFT application as this would be the best option for both of us, which I think is a bluff. How should I approach this problem under Australian Consumer Law?

Very much appreciated.

Sarah J

Well-Known Member
16 July 2014
Melbourne, Victoria
Hi Asurfa,

As an importer who then on-sells the cars (i.e. car dealer), they have an obligation to sell what they are representing. Therefore, the car dealer should have taken the necessary checks (e.g. obtain the letter from the Japanese Government, as you did) to ensure that they are not making any misrepresentations.

I believe you should try Fair Trading QLD first and if that fails, you also have a course of action in misrepresentation and possibly also breach of contract (depending on what was promised in your sale and purchase agreement).

It would be reasonable to ask for the car dealer to take the car back and refund you the purchase price or offer you a refund of some amount as a concession for the incorrect odometer.