Northside Motor Wholesale Pty Ltd - Court action

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8 August 2013
Court actions

Former licensed motor car trader Northside Motor Wholesale Pty Ltd has been refused leave to appeal against a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision to affirm a $23,000 claim against the Motor Car Traders Guarantee Fund.

In 2012, the Motor Car Traders Claims Committee, which administers the fund, decided to refund $23,000 to a consumer. The car buyer claimed that Northside had breached an agreement to terminate a car sale contract and to refund to the buyer his money after a dispute over the quality of the car.

Northside defended the claim by alleging that it had not sold the car to the consumer and that the car was sold on consignment by another licensed motor car trader which had since gone bankrupt. It also denied the refund agreement and alleged that it had offered to re-sell the car, on consignment, for the consumer.

Northside initially applied to VCAT for a review, but the tribunal affirmed the committee’s decision.

Northside then sought leave to appeal in the Victorian Supreme Court against the tribunal decision in May 2013. The company’s application contended that VCAT had erred by:

  • refusing an adjournment application, in breach of its statutory obligation to afford natural justice
  • failing to correctly construe section 76 of the Motor Car Traders Act 1986, arguing that it required the consumer’s alleged loss to have been incurred at the time the claim was lodged,
  • finding that the sale agreement was with Northside and Northside had agreed to refund the sale price.

The Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria opposed Northside’s leave to appeal application and filed submissions in opposition.

On 17 July, the Supreme Court refused Northside’s application for leave to appeal and ordered that Northside pay $6800 court costs ($3400 to the Committee and $3400 to the consumer).

The Supreme Court accepted the Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria’s submissions that:

  • the refusal of the adjournment request was justified and did not contravene any duty to accord natural justice
  • s.76 of the Act did not create a set of pre-conditions to the lodging of a claim but instead merely set out the basis for the making of claims to the committee
  • the VCAT decision disclosed that there was evidence to support each of the findings made and that the VCAT Member had conscientiously considered all evidence.

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