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You know things have reached a new low when a dealer’s service department rips off a young woman with a disability. Which is what a Hyundai dealer did two weeks ago.

The email letterbox was chocka block full again this week with your service stories. Special mention was made of the service folks at Hyundai (was one of my favourite carmakers), Range Rover and Iveco. But not too many other makers missed out.

So, we think it’s time for the new boss of the ACCC, highly respected competition lawyer Gina Cass-Gottlieb, to launch an inquiry into car servicing in Australia. Gina took over from the motorist’s friend, Rocket Rod Sims, and we’ve yet to hear from her on Australia’s most rorted industry. And we think the new minister responsible for the ACCC is Steve Jones. So, we’ll ask him as well. Then again it could be Andy Leigh, who is the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury, so we’ll ask him too.

Anyway, we did ask the ACCC persons for a statement on servicing and crook warranties. They gave us the standard lines (I told you once Rod left the place …). But much more useful information is in the free publication Motor Vehicle Sales & Repairs, an Industry Guide to the Australian Consumer Law on the ACCC website. There’s only one photo in it, but if you’re bored you can listen to it.

Anyway, here’s a brief rundown on your rights. Basically, if your car was made after January 2002, you can choose to go to any independent Australian motor vehicle repairer to get your car fixed or serviced. If the dealer says you’ll lose your warranty, tell him/her or other to ring Gina. Talking of warranties, no matter what the warranty or dealer says under Australian Consumer Law, when you buy a car it comes with an automatic guarantee that it will work and do what you expect.

So, let’s say your car suffers from excessive jerking and shuddering when accelerating. Despite taking it to the dealer 98 times it’s still cactus but recently out of warranty. Good news. If the defect is a manufacturing defect, rather than high or low heels on the clutch, then the dealer has to provide your choice of repair, replacement or refund under the consumer guarantee provisions. The guarantees under Australian Consumer Law can continue to apply after a warranty has expired and regardless of whether an independent operator has serviced or repaired the car.

One of our 20 readers has a high-priced car with a manufacturing defect that caused the engine to seize. The dealer initially said the repair would take a day or two but he couldn’t fix it after five weeks off the road. The ACCC says that this type of rort is a major failure to comply with the consumer guarantees and the reader is entitled to reject the dud.

Please be careful buying an extended warranty. They really are one of the oldest rorts in the book. As we’ve seen, guarantees under consumer law provide rights that exist despite anything the dealer or manufacturer may say or do. Extended warranties are optional. They are in addition to, and do not replace, the consumer guarantees.

So, what do you do if you are being done over, have been done over or feel you might have been done over. The ACCC spokesperson says: “Make a complaint to your local state or territory consumer protection agency, who may be able to assist with resolving the dispute. They can also report the issue to the ACCC.” I say good luck with that. Basically, you’re stuffed. You have more rights when you buy a 2 Slice White Toaster from Kmart than a $200k Range Rover. (Declaration: I bought the two-slice toaster for $7.50 and it’s a ripper.) If you have some money, you can hire a solicitor, I can recommend a great independent expert on broken cars, or you can suck it up. The ACCC used to be great on serial offenders like Mazda, but who knows now. I would suggest that, with a couple of exceptions, you use independent service workshops.

Before we move on to other stuff let me promise you our team will investigate the most egregious examples of service rorts and report them here.

The F1 reality show is now challenging The Real Housepersons of Miami for the best plot line. Just this week three-time F1 world champion Nelson Piquet has apologised “wholeheartedly” to Lewis Hamilton after using a racially offensive term to describe the Mercedes star. And I was shocked to learn that Piquet’s daughter is stepping out with Mad Max himself. Sergio Michel “Checo” Perez Mendoza, 32, of Mexico has been forced to apologise after being caught in compromising positions on camera with a person who isn’t a man or other but is also not his wife. Bernie Ecclestone, 91, claimed long-term friend Putin is a “first class person” adding “I’d still take a bullet for Vlad”.

If you can’t watch F1, head to the multicultural communist social channel SBS on for the second series of Trail Towns. My friend Dieter (hence the plug) and another temporary Aussie show you where to eat and drink and look at stuff on the far east coast of Australia, New Zealand. They don’t spend too much time in hospital with broken bones from falling off two-wheeled shockers that are nearly as bad as motorised ones.

On Sunday at Bonhams Gstaad Sale, one of 15, 2010 Lamborghini Reventon Roadsters, top speed of 330km/h that is guaranteed to “snap necks and clog city streets for hours”. $3m with full six-day warranty.



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