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Briggs to relax new car import rules

Risky business: Assistant industry minister Jamie Briggs said there will be “some risk” for people importing new cars from overseas.

Minister admits consumers will have no protections if they buy new cars overseas

16 Apr 2015

THE federal government will propose the deregulation of new car imports from 2018 so that buyers can bring in right-hand-drive cars from countries that have the same vehicle standards as Australia.

But assistant minister for infrastructure and regional development Jamie Briggs warned that people who bypassed local dealers would not enjoy any of the consumer protections available to those who buy their goods in Australia.

Mr Briggs said that any new cars imported would be subject to the goods and services tax and, where relevant, the luxury car tax as well.

“There will be some risk for people who do (import new cars),” Mr Briggs said when addressing the media at the launch of the Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo (AAAA) in Melbourne.

He was outlining proposed changes to the Australian Motor Vehicles Standards Act which will be detailed in a discussion paper to be issued in July.

Mr Briggs said that used car imports had been ruled out. The definition of a new car would be one that is less than 12 months old or with less than 4000kms on the odometer.

“If you buy anything from online and it’s from overseas, there is, of course, some risk,” he said.

“People need to be familiar with that. They need to be aware of the challenges or potential risks they face.”

Mr Briggs suggested there would be an opportunity for new businesses to start up under the changed rules.

“Of course, there will be issues in respect of warranties and so forth that they will need to make a judgement about as they are purchasing their vehicles.

“I imagine what will happen is there will be businesses that will provide people a service which will assist people in making that happen.”

It was not clear whether he meant specialist businesses would start up to import on behalf of individual customers or whether companies would be created to service cars not sold by franchised dealers.

He said there was the same lack of guarantees and protections when someone purchases anything online.

“There is already that concern and people make their own judgments.

“Government is not there to protect people from themselves.”

While Mr Briggs stopped short of accusing international car-makers and dealers of gouging their Australian customers, he stressed the need for more competition.

“There was evidence in the submission process last year that, in certain segments in the higher end, there appears to be a differential in price from what consumers can purchase in other markets.

“Now, there are other factors in that as well, which includes the application of the luxury car tax, and that is an issue being considered in other forums of the government.

“From the Motor Vehicle Standards Act perspective, I think the government should always ask, 'why are we regulating?' “In the past we had special Australian standards which prevented people from importing from overseas.

“Those standards are largely gone, or will be gone, so we will have the same standards as other countries and if the price is better for consumers in those countries, with the same car, with the same standards, you have to ask the question why are we stopping people from accessing those markets.”

Mr Briggs said it was not the intention to open up a channel for parallel importing of new cars, but he also said there was no proposed limit to how many cars an individual could import.

“That is something that we are open to looking at,” he said. “It is not intended to be opening up another way of parallel imports.

“It is intended to be a personal decision to purchase a vehicle because you found one which is cheaper than what you can get here, or different to what you can get here.

“If we think there needs to be a limit, we will have a look at that.”

As far as the importing of specialist and enthusiasts’ cars went, Mr Briggs said the government was consulting on that issue with senator Ricky Muir of the Motoring Enthusiast Party.

“At the moment there are restrictions on what are specialist vehicles.

“Through the RAW (Registered Automotive Workshop) scheme, we will continue with that type of approach, but we are looking to liberalise the list and what specialists can access.

“We are working with senator Muir on an appropriate regime for the reform to take.”

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