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Campervan crackdown costs firm more than $1 million

November 21, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

An Australian campervan manufacturer has been ordered to pay more than AUD 1 million in fines, compensation and court costs following an investigation by Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) – but many consumers have been left out of pocket, the company has folded, the company principal has been bankrupted and has lost his house.

Glenn Stuart Wills was found guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last Thursday (15 November 2018) to seven counts of receiving payment for campervans but failing to supply them within a reasonable time, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.

Wills was fined AUD 6000 plus costs of AUD 5000, and ordered to pay AUD 20,000 compensation to one customer. No conviction was recorded against Wills.

This follows Wills’ company Gidget Retro Teardrop Camper Pty Ltd (Gidget) being found guilty on 16 March 2018 of 11 similar offences and fined AUD 100,000 plus substantial compensation for consumers.

The OFT launched an investigation after receiving complaints from 11 consumers who had paid deposits to Gidget between June 2015 and March 2017 but experienced significant delays in receiving their campervans.

After the OFT’s intervention, seven of the consumers received full refunds and three received their campervans. One complainant missed out entirely however – receiving neither their campervan nor any refund of the AUD 27,640 they had paid to Gidget – because the company was in liquidation at the time.

Gidget was placed into liquidation on 16 February 2018, leaving a further 56 consumers out of pocket and without their ordered campervan. Fourteen of those consumers were based in the USA.

The OFT sought compensation for the 11 complainants the investigation was based on, and also on behalf of the 56 consumers who also had suffered financial loss due to Gidget’s actions.

The court ordered Gidget to pay compensation of AUD 896,865.60 to Australian consumers and a further USD 196,895.39 to US consumers. A conviction was recorded against the company.

In sentencing Gidget, Magistrate Payne noted the company had ignored consumers’ complaints until the OFT became involved and said the outcome of the matter needed to serve as a warning to other businesses to follow through and deliver goods and services as promised.

In Thursday’s sentencing of Wills, Magistrate Nunan said Wills did not show a good sense of judgement, and had given unrealistic hopes to his customers.

Magistrate Nunan also said, when deciding a penalty, he had considered Wills’ poor health, lack of criminal history, and that he had no permanent residence after losing his house when he was declared bankrupt.

Fair Trading Executive Director Brian Bauer said the collapse of Gidget and the penalties handed down by the courts were a stark reminder to businesses not to play fast and loose with consumers’ money.

“Taking large sums from consumers based on empty promises is not only unethical, it is illegal,” Bauer said.

“Businesses that cause detriment to consumers this way will be punished.”

Edited by Peter Needham

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