After two years and two Disputes Tribunal hearings, a Northland couple has won $1300 compensation from Mitsubishi Motors for the faulty paintwork on their vehicle.

Richard and Christina Duley bought a 2007 Mitsubishi Triton ute second-hand in a private sale in late 2010. “After eight months, we noticed the paintwork was beginning to fail in two distinctive strips over the bonnet and roof. We spoke to a local panelbeater who told us the paint was delaminating and, in his opinion, it was caused by a faulty paint job,” Richard said.

When the couple contacted Mitsubishi, the company agreed to assess the ute. But afterwards it told Richard and Christina it wouldn’t do anything further as the vehicle was “out of warranty”.

They pointed out the Consumer Guarantees Act requires goods to be of acceptable quality and argued a four-year-old vehicle shouldn’t have extensive delamination. They also discovered their vehicle wasn’t the only one affected – a 2007 Mitsubishi ute owned by a neighbour had a similar problem. But their arguments didn’t hold sway with Mitsubishi.

Richard and Christina decided to lodge a claim with the [Disputes Tribunal], asking for compensation to cover the repair cost. The CGA gives you the right to seek damages from the manufacturer when a product you’ve bought from the consumer who originally purchased the good fails the Act’s “acceptable quality” test.

At the first hearing, the referee dismissed the case and chose to rely on Mitsubishi’s oral evidence that the damage may have been caused by a “cut and polish” to remove minor scratches and bird droppings before the ute went on sale. The cut and polish had been arranged by the dealer who sold the ute to its original owner.

“Mitsubishi had never mentioned this before. We had no time to prepare a response and believe the company didn’t act in good faith,” Richard said. The couple applied for a rehearing, which they were granted. They presented evidence from two panelbeaters disputing Mitsubishi’s claim as well as an independent report that concluded a cut and polish shouldn’t affect the paint coating. Their neighbour also gave evidence about the delamination on his ute.

This time the referee found in favour of Richard and Christina, stating “it goes against the balance of probability for a cut and polish of two different utes by different finishers to give identical areas of delamination”. The referee decided a manufacturing fault had caused the failure and Mitsubishi had to pay up.

Mitsubishi applied for a further rehearing but later withdrew its application after receiving instructions from its head office in Japan.

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