The next topic in this series based on Emma Dalley’s AAAA Expo presentation on the top five most common legal enquiries Industry Legal receives
The failure of a customer to collect a vehicle after an assessment or service can hamper the conduct of business, take up valuable space and parts used in the service may be unpaid.
How to dispose of uncollected vehicles
The lawful way to dispose of the vehicle (and recoup unpaid charges) is through the process set out in the disposal of uncollected goods legislative regime of the State or Territory in which the business is located.
It is important to follow each of the required steps of the relevant uncollected goods regime to ensure the vehicle is lawfully disposed of. Further, beware that if the vehicle is uncollected due to a dispute between the customer and the business in relation to the vehicle, or the business is otherwise preventing the collection of the vehicle, it is unlikely the uncollected goods legislative regime is appropriate.
Importantly, this article provides general information and a general overview only, of disposing of uncollected vehicles. If your business has an uncollected vehicle at its premises, contact Industry Legal for information on the process applying to the State or Territory in which the business with the uncollected vehicle is located.
Value of the vehicle
Usually, the starting point is to assess the value of the vehicle, as the legislative regimes (other than Queensland) contain different processes depending on the value of the vehicle. For this reason, the first step is to obtain, or make, an independent assessment of the value of the vehicle before starting the process to dispose of the uncollected vehicle. It is a good idea to keep the information and process used to value the vehicle on file.
Generally, the process of each legislative regime commences when the business providing notice to the customer that the vehicle is ready for collection (together with other specified information). This notice generally requires the inclusion of specific information.
Often businesses find it difficult to commence the process as they do not have the home address of the customer. This is because, with some exceptions, most current legislative regimes require notice to be posted to, or left at the address of, the customer. Consequently, obtaining the home address, email address and contact phone number of each customer receiving services from the business, assists to dispose of uncollected vehicles.
After notice is provided
The process after notice is provided varies between the State and Territory regimes and can depend on the value of the vehicle. In some legislative regimes, low value vehicles need only be retained for a short time (as specified in the legislation) before disposal (generally by way of public auction), other regimes and processes require further notices, newspaper advertising, Government Gazette advertising and/or tribunal or court applications to be made before the vehicle is disposed of.
Special requirements for vehicles
Most legislative regimes also require additional steps to be taken for all vehicles or vehicles of a particular value. Such steps may include seeking a certificate that a vehicle is not stolen from, and/or providing notice to the Commissioner of Police, and/or obtaining a written search of the Personal Property Security Register. It is important to ensure that the requirements of the State or Territory in which the vehicle is located are complied with.
• If there is a dispute regarding the charges in respect of the vehicle, or the customer is refusing to pay the business for other reasons, then it is very likely the uncollected goods legislative regime will not be appropriate to address the circumstance (please contact Industry Legal for further information).
• In the majority of circumstances, the vehicle may only be disposed of by public auction.
• Generally, the business will be able to retain outstanding amounts, reasonable storage (from the date the notice is sent) and the expenses of the business in relation to the sale of the vehicle. It is important to check the relevant legislative regime to ensure the business is only retaining amounts allowed under the relevant legislation.
• If the amount of the proceeds of sale remaining after the charges of the business are deducted cannot be returned to the customer, it must be deposited with the authority specified in the legislative regime.
• Generally, record keeping of particular information is required under the legislative regimes. Additionally Industry Legal recommends the business keep detailed records of the disposal of the vehicle.
• Some legislative regimes have other specific requirements, for example, Queensland requires businesses to display a sign in respect of the uncollected goods regime at the place of business.
Some uncollected goods legislative regimes have been modernised or are undergoing review to create efficiencies in the disposal of uncollected goods process. For example, in 2020, New South Wales and Tasmania updated their legislative regime. It is hoped that some of the more complex uncollected goods legislative regimes will similarly be reviewed and modernised to assist businesses to operate with efficiency.
Information and legislative changes
If you have any questions regarding the uncollected goods regime in your State or Territory, please contact Industry Legal. Alternatively, if you have previously received an uncollected goods information sheet from Industry Legal and wish to refer to the information sheet to dispose of another uncollected vehicle left at the premises of your business, please contact Industry Legal first to see if there have been any legislative changes. If there are legislative changes, Industry Legal can provide you with an updated information sheet.
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This document is intended for general information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Please contact Industry Legal if you require legal advice