The manufacturing, distribution and installation of aftermarket automotive parts reportedly contributes over $25 billion to the Australian economy.  Despite this, the laws governing the standards and certification applicable to these aftermarket parts can be difficult to piece together. This may be due to the fact that the legislation and regulations are currently in a state of transition, leading to some grey areas regarding which are applicable, and to what extent they must be complied with.
So, what does this mean for you? Whether you are a consumer of aftermarket products, a manufacturer, a distributer, or a parts installer, it is important that you have a comprehensive understanding of the standards that these parts must meet, and the potential ramifications should the parts not meet them. The answer to this question is not as simple as it perhaps should be. This article will provide a brief overview of the current laws and regulations on aftermarket parts in Australia, and how they interact with each other.
The supply of aftermarket parts fitted to motor vehicles in Australia is governed by a mix of Federal, State and Territory legislation and regulations.
The Federal legislation governing the sale of new motor vehicles in Australia is currently in a transition period, which is set to end on 30 June 2023.  The Road Vehicle Standards Act 2018 (Cth) and the associated Road Vehicle Standards Rules 2019 (Cth) are to replace the superseded Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 (Cth). While this Federal legislation does require that new motor vehicles, or motor vehicles being imported to Australia for the first time, comply with the Australian Design Rules (ADRs), there is no requirement for aftermarket parts supplied for use in used cars to comply with these rules or be certified under this Act. This position differs to the requirements under the State and Territory legislation as discussed below.
State and Territory Legislation
Each State and Territory has its own specific legislation and regulations regarding the supply and sale of aftermarket automotive parts, all of which require modified vehicles to continue to comply with the relevant ADRs after modification. Additionally, each State and Territory has its own standards that it imposes on vehicles both before and after modification, such as roadworthiness.
We have compiled a list of the relevant legislation/regulations in each State and Territory:
|Queensland||v Transport Operations (Road Use Management-Vehicle
Standards and Safety) Regulation 2021 (Qld)
v Transport Operations (Road Use Management-Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2021 (Qld)
v Queensland Road Vehicle Modification Handbook
|New South Wales||v Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2017 (NSW)|
|Victoria||v Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2021 (VIC)|
|South Australia||v Road Traffic (Light Vehicle Standards) Rules 2018 (SA)|
|Australian Capital Territory||v Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2000 (ACT)|
|Western Australia||v Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014 (WA)|
|Tasmania||v Vehicle and Traffic (Vehicle Standards) Regulations 2014 (TAS)|
|Northern Territory||v Motor Vehicles (Standards) Regulations 2003
v Motor Vehicles (Standards) Regulations - Australian Vehicle Standards Rules (NT).
Note that this is merely an overview of the legislation and regulations that we believe are relevant, and is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the legislation and regulations that must be considered.
The ADRs are the national technical standards for automotive vehicle safety in Australia. They have been adopted by each State and Territory, and as such each vehicle must comply with these rules to remain registered and roadworthy in Australia. There are two editions of the ADRs currently in-force, the Second and Third Edition. Which edition is applicable will depend on the date of manufacture for the vehicle in question.
It is important to note that the Second Edition of the ADRs applies to vehicles manufactured from 1 January 1969. From 1 July 1988, the Third Edition of the ADRs were phased in. Not all of the Third Edition ADRs were applicable from this time, some were not brought into effect until 1991 and 1992.
The ADRs are split into several different standards, each focusing on a different aspect of the vehicle. Examples of these include the steering system, lighting, external noise and mirrors. In making a determination as to which ADR is applicable to a specific product or vehicle, it is essential that each ADR is reviewed carefully. If aftermarket parts, or motor vehicles do not comply with the relevant ADRs, they may be deemed unroadworthy and liable to be de-registered. Additional penalties such as fines may also be imposed by the relevant regulatory authority.
National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (VSB 14)
The National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (VSB 14) is a set of guidelines for the modification and construction of light vehicles in Australia. It was developed by the Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board Working Party to ensure that light vehicles modified or constructed in Australia are safe, reliable, and compliant with the ADRs.
In most of the States and Territories, the VSB 14 is not a mandatory regulation, but it is considered to be best practice and widely accepted as an industry standard. Despite this some States and Territories have adopted the VSB 14 as a mandatory requirement in the roadworthy inspection process. This means that vehicles must comply with the VSB 14 guidelines in order to pass the roadworthy inspection and be registered for use on the road. Even so, it is an important guide for businesses and individuals who construct or modify light vehicles in Australia, as well as for vehicle testing and certifying organisations, providing a clear and consistent approach for the light vehicle industry. The VSB 14 is also a 'living' document and it is regularly reviewed and updated by the Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board Working Party in consultation with industry experts.
Australian Consumer Law
The Australian Consumer Law as set out in schedule 2 to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (ACL) is applicable to most goods and services sold to consumers in Australia, including the sale of aftermarket motor vehicle parts. They provide a very broad set of protections to consumers, including consumer guarantees (e.g. products must be for the purpose for which they are commonly supplied and free from defects, products must comply with safety standards, etc.) that cannot be excluded at law.  Additionally, the ACL requires that goods be of acceptable quality, that they match any descriptions provided by the seller, and that they come with clear and accurate information about their composition and use. There are a number of remedies afforded to consumers for breach of the ACL, including, among other things, compensation for damages, recission of the contract, infringement notices or injunctions.
A heavy vehicle is a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass or Aggregate Trailer Mass of more than 4.5 tonnes.  Heavy Vehicles in Australia are governed by a separate set of guides and regulations. These are not covered in this article. If you would like further advice on the contents of this article or advice on the relevant regulations for heavy vehicles in Australia.
1 Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (aaaa.com.au)
2 Motor Vehicle Standards laws | Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts
3 Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/consumer-rights-guarantees)
4 s 6 Heavy Vehicle National Law (Qld).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.