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Diesel Liability Is A Straight Forward Issue

The Consumer Institute is wrong to discourage compensation claims for bad diesel losses, by suggesting it would be complicated and expensive, says ACT’s Justice and Commerce spokesman, Stephen Franks.

“Our common law system means a few cases can settle the principles for nearly everyone. All it needs is for judges to accept that those who bring the test cases must be compensated for the true costs and risks of bringing the case.

“For consumer claims the Consumer Guarantees Act would seem to make liability reasonably simple. The only difficult question would be making sure that claimants actually lost what they claimed. Sadly even businesses determined to be fair to their customers will face opportunist claims grossly exaggerating losses, just as insurers do. Disputes Tribunal applications are cheap and should work well for this purpose, but the draw back is they do not establish useful precedents.

“But, again, the courts could get on top of that quite quickly if they gave realistic costs awards for damages against claimants who falsely exaggerate their losses.

“For business claimants there might be argument from oil companies about the scope of their duty to avoid providing effective fuel, and the duty of users to limit losses once they have heard of the problem, but these sorts of claims are not at all novel.

“However, the key problem highlighted by the pessimism of the Consumers Institute, and apparent fatalism of Minister Hodgson, is that the New Zealand courts have been allowing wrongdoers to get away with low risk of court action. This is because even a successful test case for a relatively small claim can leave the winner seriously out of pocket.

“In my capacity as both Justice & Commerce spokesman I am constantly reminded that all the fancy new laws this Government is considering are just insult to injury given the practical inability to enforce contracts, debts and even court judgements.

“Once ACT has the power to do law reform we will concentrate on making the law mean what it says - instead of constantly inventing fanciful new rules.


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