Man Fails in Bid for $40,000 Car Refund over Dodgy Satnav

The Age. VCAT Decision

A driver who sought a full refund for a $40,000 car because it came with a dodgy satellite navigation system has been told by a tribunal he deserved only the price of a street directory.

and VCAT's summary:

GPS system in a passenger vehicle unreliable in some areas due to deficiencies in mapping data – the GPS hardware not defective – Australian Consumer Law section 54 acceptable quality – section 262(2) rejection period – consumer guarantee not breached – had damages been awarded, mitigation would have been highly relevant.

OK, on the face of it sounds like a ridiculous story as why not just buy a GPS unit or ignore that it doesn't work in small pocket of Victoria. However, what it does make a bit clearer is consumer law in relation to what constitutes a major issue vs. a minor issue. From the ACCC:

You can ask a business for your preference of a free repair, replacement or refund, but you are not always entitled to one….If you have a minor problem with a product or service, the business can choose to give you a free repair instead of a replacement or refund. When you have a major problem with a product, you have the right to ask for your choice of a replacement or refund. For a major problem with a service, you can choose to receive compensation for the drop in value below the price paid, or a refund.

A major problem is defined as when:

A product or good has a major problem when:
it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it
it is unsafe
it is significantly different from the sample or description
it doesn’t do what the business said it would, or what you asked for and can’t easily be fixed.

In this case, the argument put forth is that the consumer wouldn't have bought the car if they had known about the GPS issues. Repairs were done but didn't fix specific issues within the GPS unit.

section 262(2) rejection period

(2) The rejection period for goods is the period from the time of the supply of the goods to the consumer within which it would be reasonable to expect the relevant failure to comply with a guarantee referred to in section 259(1)(b) to become apparent having regard to:

(a) the type of goods; and

(b) the use to which a consumer is likely to put them; and

(c) the length of time for which it is reasonable for them to be used; and

(d) the amount of use to which it is reasonable for them to be put before such a failure becomes apparent.

The other deciding factor was asking for a refund after 2 years of use and 60,000km of driving.

So in this case, no refunds for a car if a small portion of a non-essential feature of a car doesn't function correctly. An example given in the case, was the radio which may not have reception in certain areas. But it poses an interesting question, if the radio or GPS or another part doesn't function at all even after repairs, does this give the consumer a right to refund?


  • +1 vote

    Cool read thanks

  • +8 votes

    The other deciding factor was asking for a refund after 2 years of use and 60,000km of driving.

    I'd think that would have had a huge impact on the decision.

    However, VCAT deputy president Ian Lulham said the dealer's tests showed there was nothing wrong with the GPS hardware and instead revealed an issue with the third-party mapping data used to calculate its directions.

    Yeah, there's no way I'd give him a full refund either. At most, the cost of a working GPS.

  • +1 vote

    Hasn't he heard of AndroidAuto… or even better Apple CarPlay?
    Just use Google Maps (you can even post improvements or edits).

    Otherwise, buy a standalone GPS or Headunit which has proprietary navigation like Navman, TomTom, Garmin, Navigon, etc etc.

  • +2 votes

    Like most good law, the common-sense position won out.

    • +3 votes

      I don't think it's a very well written law:

      it has a problem that would have stopped someone from buying it if they’d known about it

      I wouldn't buy any product which had any problem unless there were no better alternatives, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone on that.


        It’s not as simple as that. You could have bought the same car and found out later the gps told you to go the wrong way sometimes. It is a problem, but given the complexity of the car, a pretty minor one.


          You could have bought the same car and found out later the gps told you to go the wrong way sometimes.

          And if I had known about this beforehand and there was a better alternative, I wouldn't have bought it.

          It is a problem, but given the complexity of the car, a pretty minor one.

          Sure, but the Australian Consumer Law doesn't mention the magnitude of the problem in proportion to the complexity of the product when defining a major problem.

  • +2 votes

    Another interesting case from VCAT:

    A buyer purchases a commercial truck from Pickles Auction (in Victoria). The auction listing stated 5000km on the odometer and when the buyer received the vehicle (in NSW) the odometer read 22,000km. Pickles points to a whole bunch of their terms and also that the buyer never inspected the car in-person. Pickles offered $500 compensation, buyer wanted $5000. Lots of things cited but VCAT finds in favour for the buyer of $2,500. The buyer couldn't find a resale value of the vehicle at different mileage so guess VCAT just picked a reasonable number in between.

    • +2 votes

      Should've asked for $10,000!


      Would inspecting the car even reveal the odo? I've been to Pickles and the keys are not in the cars, i don't think the odo would even be visible


        Probably not but it was one of their defences.

        Pickle's was saying they got the 5,000km from a sticker that was placed on the vehicle not by the odometer. However this wasn't mentioned in the ad nor was there a sticker on the vehicle when the buyer received it. This info was in Pickle's internal docs. There was also nothing mentioned in the service book.

        but also, the battery was dead and the odometer was digital:

        In the course of these works, she charged the battery and noted that the truck’s electronic odometer displayed a reading of 22,003 kilometres.


          What was a loss to Pickles and a win for the Australian Consumers.

          Good to see they can't get away from this same tactic over and over again.

  • +4 votes

    Cases like these is why we can't have nice thing. 2 years he used the car for. No major issues with it. Finds a little thing wrong with it that does not stop them using the car for 2 years. Oh I know. Let's ask for a full refund. Yes. Makes sense.

    Sense of entitlement is over 9000.


      True, I'm glad he didn't win (or go even close)

      but on the other side of it, it sends a message to the manufacturers that selling sub standard accessories is not acceptable.

      • +1 vote

        If the component was faulty. Sure make seller either fix it. Replace it or refund price of component. Not refund full purchase price specially since said component did not impact the use of the car seeing they manage to drive it for 2 years.


      Sense of entitlement

      So the person that refused to park their car at Maccas… seems they were driving a VW.

    • +2 votes

      What if the issue was the air conditioning and never got fixed? Would that be a major issue or a minor issue? Probably a definite yes in Queensland but Tasmania, perhaps not. At stupid as these cases may be, these cases help define consumer law based on actual situations.


        For a part of the car to be known to the seller that it is faulty or has gone faulty. They would have had to bring it in if possible (possible meaning they could drive it back to the seller) when fault was discovered. Not 2 years of driving around using the car with a faulty aircon.

  • +3 votes

    What a waste of VCATs time.

  • +1 vote

    I love discussing legal cases like this.
    I agree with the outcome, seems fairly common sense. And the general consensus is that common sense won out.

    OK let's change the parameters a bit and see what everyone thinks.

    Scenario 1: lets change the fact its been two years. And change it to two weeks or 2 months. Should he be entitled to the same refund or more.

    Scenario 2: let's assume after two years he moves house and he is in a totally different area and the entire areas gps is inaccurate? Yes he could use Google maps but it can be pretty inconvenient or dangerous using a phone. Should compensation be different. What happens if he is an uber driver and needs a working gps?


    • +2 votes

      Scenario 1: No. It does not affect the safety and normal operation of the vehicle or its intended usage.

      Scenario 2: No. See No. 1. Also, if the guy was an Uber driver and didn’t know their own local area well enough to not use a GPS, then I would get another Uber driver. They would know after one or two trips that the GPS had an issue in "that" area.

      Too me, it just sounded like the guy was clutching at straws and trying to get a new/free car or 2 years use of a car and his money back. An in-car GPS system does not break the intended use of the car and would be considered a minor fault. Now, if it was something like a gearbox, brakes, engine or major body system that stopped a car being a car, then yes, I can understand. Added to that the fact that it worked as normal everywhere except a small part of the GPS navigation systems possible area of use, the buyer got what they deserved, some media attention and a crack at getting a full refund on a car over a bullshit, almost non-issue.

      I cant wait for the buyer to post here and ask "VCAT denied my refund and my car is totally unusable, how do I get a full refund…"


        Fair points.

        But also what needs to be considered is intended use
        If he told the salesman I'm going to live in this area and I need it for work. Will it guide me to and from A to B. And the salesman said yep sure it will be fine. Consumer law kicks in.

        I think it's a tough one. But how do you compensate and to what degree


          Same thing again. Just because you say "I need it" and they salesman says "ok, no problem" doesn’t make it a major fault.

          The guy selling it isn’t a software engineer. How was the sales guys comment anywhere near binding on a GPS. If the sales man sold him a VW Golf, but what the buyer needed was a Amarok, then you have grounds for "significantly not as described".

          The GPS didn’t work in a small area north of Melbourne. If the driver needed it for work and was constantly in that area, one would hope that after a short period of time that their reliance on this GPS would not be required.

          And it's not a tough one. The buyer certainly isn’t entitled to a new car over a minor fault. Maybe a free map upgrade when the issue was found. Truth probably is that they said "You can buy the map upgrade to current maps" and buyer said "no way, I want a replacement car!!"



          Consumer law (this one is from Vic)

          So if he told the Salesman. And the sales man did say yes.
          Then he is entitled to a remedy as its a breach.
          So it's not so simple.
          Also it depends if its a major or minor breach. Which isn't always clear cut

        • +1 vote


          Did the buyer state that their sole reason for buying this car was the included in-car GPS navigation system and that will explicitly be used in the Outer Northern Melbourne areas? Is there a reasonable expectation on the sales man to know exactly how the GPS operates in this area?

          It's similar to saying, I have to have a radio in my car because I listen to radio. And then wanting a refund, 2 years after purchase, because in some part of of your drive, the radio goes a little fuzzy and drops out for a moment.

          The intended purpose of the car was to drive it, not to watch the GPS on the Hume Highway in North Melbourne. So in this case and any spin that you put on it will not change it. The sales man would not have any idea on the performance of the GPS in a certain area and the buyer would not be buying the car solely based on the in-car GPS.

          So, it is simple. Major breach, engine falls out. Minor, radio gets fuzzy. VCAT saw to it that it was simple and dismissed the case, as well they should have.

        • -2 votes


          Did the buyer state that their sole reason for buying this car was the included in-car GPS navigation system and that will explicitly be used in the Outer Northern Melbourne areas?

          I dont know as I wasnt there, but to simply dismiss it as being ludicrous for asking a full refund is dangerous, and using it as precedent,

          I purchased a navman GPS years ago, and occasionally it would reroute and just hang,

          I put it down to bad reception or whatever,

          I took it back to office works about 8 months later and put it right next the next model up,
          when I chose a random same address on the two units, my one took a lot longer to route,

          the sales guy gave me the newer model without fuss,

          some would say getting a replacement upgrade 8 monthsa fter purchase isnt going to happen. Maybe I got lucky

        • +3 votes


          See, now your just making shit up and taking it all out of context just to pursue an argument. What is ludicrous is your "yeah, but what if…"

          The buyer did NOT go in there and ask if the GPS was accurate and state that was their sole reason of buying it.

          Any sales person could not be held accountable for knowing if a GPS mapping software in a car was going to perform a glitch. This is unreasonable to expect considering the amount of roads and areas the car could be driven to. This is NOT the same as saying, "sure, the VW Golf GTi has a 4.5 tonne towing capacity."

          Your comparison to a cheap GPS unit and replacing a car are at opposite ends of the spectrum. One is a $200 unit, the other is a $41,000+ car. One only has one function, ie: to be a GPS. The other has many functions over and above being a GPS. SO your comparison example is absolute garbage. It's like saying, I want my iPhone replaced because Waze sent me the longer way around.

          Anyway, you're just changing the goal posts to suit whatever agenda you have. So, for that reason, I'm out.

        • -3 votes


          see, now that im making you look a little silly because you said it was simple cut case, and im saying its not,

          see how I open up a new variable, and your "its a clear cut case" doesnt look as clear as you make sound to be

          its ok, dont stress

        • +1 vote


          Give up man

    • +1 vote

      one important that isnt clear is:

      Did the dealer manage to reproduce the problem or confirm the fault.

      "However, VCAT deputy president Ian Lulham said the dealer's tests showed there was nothing wrong with the GPS hardware and instead revealed an issue with the third-party mapping data used to calculate its directions"

      It is not like the dealer didnt do anything. The article said that they did replaced the "system".


        I think that worked very favourably for the dealer. At least they tried and spent a lot attempting to fix it. Most crappy customer service would just fob them off

      • +1 vote

        The issue is Here Maps, from VCAT:

        Ironically what this establishes is that there is nothing wrong with the GPS system hardware. Instead, it is more likely than not that there is a problem with the dissemination of mapping data which is capable of being recognised by GPS systems in the outer northern suburbs around the Hume Highway. Mr Halley gave evidence that Volkswagen and several other European car brands take their data from a business called Here Maps, whereas he knew that some other brands took their data from other suppliers. I am satisfied that NGP could not fault the GPS system because it tested it in Waverley where there is no problem with the dissemination of mapping data. That was of little comfort to Mr Russell, who does not travel to Waverley or its surrounds.


          I have done customer service jobs. I have encountered numerous similar incident, many even more outrageous.
          The approach I take is:

          Yes, alright, I do not doubt that you have a problem. However right how I cannot arrive at the same conclusion as you. Walk me through the problem and try to convince me that you conclusion is the right one. "Customer is always right" is not the acceptable

          I know that source of the problem is usually USER, so I have to, through the process of troubleshooting, lead them to that conclusion. At the same time, it highlights how ludicrous their demands are and how illogical their chain of thoughts.

          I highly doubt that Here map will have problem along the hume and work perfectly in Glen Waverly.
          In this case, I would help the driver find a different map for the GPS.


    I can't imagine how much time and income they lost pursuing this. Wow.

    I recall Mitsubishi about 5-10 years used to have heeeeaps of issues with their in built GPS systems that used a DVD drive. DVD drive always used to fail within a year even when replaced.

    They used to offer $300 or a Garmin GPS. Thought that was pretty reasonable.


    Ok let me do an analogy here. I buy a 65" tv. The tv works great except the remote never worked ever. Didn't bother me since I have one of those Logitech universal remotes.

    Fast forward 2 years. I go back to the shop. Say hey I want a refund for the full price of the tv since remote never worked. Bear in mind the tv has worked great all that 2 years.

    Do you think I'm entitled for a full refund of the cost of buying the tv 2 years back?

    How about they counter offer with how about we get you a working remote? And if they cannot because tv remote no longer produced they offer me a gift card to the value of said remote. Isn't that more appropriate?


      or they offer you a universal remote. Something that is at least as good as what you would originally have.

      That is logical. Once you lay out facts like this, the customer's intention becomes clear

    • +1 vote

      Bad analogy. In the case OP mentioned, It would be more like;

      The remote worked everywhere in the house, but if you sat in a certain place on the couch, it would select the wrong channel or take the long way of getting to the channel you wanted. You only sat there a few times to notice this. You took the TV back and they could not replicate it, but they replaced the remote for you anyway.

      There was no problem if you went to the tv and changed the channels using the TV buttons. The picture was always clear and sound was great.

      You take the TV home and continue to use it for the next two years. The fault is still there, but you know your way around the couch and that one place it won’t work, so you avoid it. You watch 60,000 hours of TV on it, so its main purpose is fulfilled.

      Entitled to a refund for the whole TV? No. The unit performed as intended. You could watch TV, change channels, listen to radio, play games, everything as normal, except for the one tiny spot on the old couch. At best, you are entitled to an alternative, say, an aftermarket remote. Or just learn what the remote does and where and how to bypass it malfunctioning.

      And that’s basically what VCAT ruled.

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