Power Assisted Pedal Bikes

03 Jun 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about power assisted pedal bikes.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Observant members may have seen a public warning notice in the paper at the weekend in relation to a Modena power assisted pedal bike, which is described as an electric scooter-type bike with pedals which cannot legally be ridden on the road or related area. Further, the warning states:

 ...[the] bike is too powerful to be classified a 'power assisted cycle', and cannot be registered.

The Office of Consumer and Business Affairs advises consumers that they 'may be entitled to some redress'. Arising from some of the lack of information in this public warning, my questions are:

1. Is this bike a push bike or not and, if not, what classification would it be described as?

2. Is the office intending to issue a recall?

3. Precisely what does the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs mean by 'redress'? Is it offering to assist people to get their money back?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister Assisting the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Energy) (14:32): I thank the honourable member for her questions and the opportunity to raise again this important issue in the public arena. Indeed, a company has been selling Modena power assisted pedal bikes with a claim, associated in its advertising, that it is 'road legal' (I think that was the term used) and did not require a licence or registration.

We have asked that the retailer withdraw that advertising, given that it is misleading and quite inaccurate. With the assistance of DTEI, OCBA has had the bike independently assessed, and tests found that it failed to meet the requirements necessary for it to be classified as a pedal assisted bike that, if it fulfilled that classification, would not normally require a licence.

It failed to meet those requirements, but it also failed to meet the design standards necessary for it to be classified as a powered vehicle, such as a scooter, that could be licensed and made roadworthy. Because it failed those design standards, it was not able to be classified as a power assisted pedal bike nor to be licensed as a motor vehicle. We have required that that advertising be withdrawn. We do not require the bike to be recalled because it is still quite legal to ride it on private property; for example, a farmer could use it quite legitimately on private property. Therefore, it is not illegal to sell this bike. However, it is an offence to sell it in a way that is associated with misleading advertising, and that is the offence that we are pursuing at this point in time.

We are undergoing further investigations in terms of legal proceedings. We need to investigate the details of this particular case quite carefully in order to ascertain whether we have solid grounds to prosecute. For instance, the retailer could claim that their supplier provided them with certain assurances or guarantees that the bike was road legal and did not require licensing, and so on. We need to investigate those sorts of possibilities before pursuing legal action.

Nevertheless, we are pursuing further investigations. If this person is found to have blatantly misled the public, we will take all legal recourse available to us. In terms of redress, officers from the Office of Consumer and Business Affairs are providing advice and guidance to consumers who have bought the bike about what redress may be available. For instance, an offence will have occurred only if a person bought the bike for the purposes intended and outlined in the advertisement. If a person who bought the bike did not know of or was not aware or influenced by
an advertisement that said the bike was road legal—they may have bought the bike with the intention of riding it on private property, or they may not have researched it adequately—it is unlikely they would have any form of redress.

However, if the person bought the bike, as I am told, for a disabled person in order to help them get around, with the expectation that was outlined in the advertisement that the bike was legal—they are about $1,200 each; it is quite an expensive piece of equipment—OCBA is saying, 'Ring us and tell us your details and we will inform you about the sorts of redress available to you.'