Will Australian court case embolden U.S. RV industry to go after critics?

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

When Australian Tracy Leigh started a Facebook group called Lemon Caravans & RVs, she probably never expected to wind up on the wrong end of a lawsuit. She started the site as a platform for RVers to vent and warn about poor quality RVs from the Land Down Under. The group got popular, with some 47,000 members.


Lemon Caravans allowed its members to discuss problems they had with their RVs, and their misadventures with RV builders in trying to get the problems worked out. Charles Coles was of the same mind. Coles bought a Bruder EXP-6 trailer in 2018 and experienced problems. An Australian company, Bruder builds what it describes as “expedition trailers” for “Global exploration, military, humanitarian & overland enthusiasts.” And Bruder apparently doesn’t take well to criticism.

An unhappy Charles Coles created a website detailing his complaints with his Bruder Expedition trailer, urging potential customers to think twice before buying one. Apparently feeling some heat, Coles took his site down on May 15. A little over a month later, Bruder brought action against Coles for allegedly publishing false statements. But before Coles’ critical site came down, a member of the Lemon Caravans Facebook page spotted it and linked it on a Facebook post. The page’s administrator, Tracy Leigh, commented on it. “I am hoping by showing this to 45,000 members that Bruder might pick up their act. Losing a sale would cost them a fortune,” she wrote, according to a court judgment.

An unhappy manufacturer, Bruder took Leigh to court, charging her with defamation. It asked for – and was granted – an injunction that prevents Leigh from publishing anything else about the company before the case comes to trial, effectively muzzling the self-appointed watchdog.

Will Australian court case embolden U.S. RV industry to go after critics?
Tracy Leigh on facebook.com

Interestingly, if you believe the arguments put forth by Bruder, Leigh’s public shaming of the company was actually having an effect. Bruder told the court Ms. Leigh “clearly intends” to cause it financial harm after saying “naming and shaming [is] the best method of getting a rogue trader to the table to negotiate” and “if you don’t comply, you will suffer economic loss.”

Bruder’s testimony before the court in asking for the gag order included the point that a company director got a text message from a potential customer saying that after reading Tracy Leigh’s posts he had decided against buying a Bruder manufactured trailer.

While this whole mess plays out on the other end of the planet, it does make one wonder: Will America’s RV manufacturers follow suit with suits of their own? It’s apparent that commercial publishers who point to poor manufacturing quality and lousy service after a sale is made are perfectly happy to show their displeasure by chopping off advertising with such “offending” publishers. But go after consumers and those who advocate for them?

The industry is proud of their stand in killing off Lemon Law legislation that would protect consumers, so why not take it to a lower level? Only time will tell.

##RVT907

 

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Mr Pug

Well teh Saga Drags on…

Mr Coles submitted his appeal against the Default Judgement on the basis of Service.

To Date the Judge has considered the submissions & has decided to take further time considering its position.

Curia Advisari Vult
Curia advisari vult is a Latin legal term meaning “the court wishes to consider the matter” (literally, “the court wishes to be advised”), a term reserving judgment until some subsequent day.

Tracy Leigh

As I am gagged, I am unable to comment about any specifics of the case, unlike others who can say what they like, true or not. And mostly untrue.
I suggest that all observers wait until the conclusion of the cases before commenting or speculating. Only those of us involved know the facts.

Phil Sanchez

Mr Coles complained about his Bruder caravan listed numerous faults but yet advertised his van as faultless.

https://expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/2018-bruder-expedition-exp-6-off-road-van.201052/

Ian Skinner

From my understanding it is alleged the company won damages against Mr Coles because he did not turn up to court to contest the allegations. Consumer protection in Australia is absismal. Whilst there is legislation to protect the consumer it is often not enforced by government bodies whose job it is to protect the consumer.

Mr Pug

Australia may not have Freedom of Speech.. We do have Defamation Laws.

This case is not difficult to fathom.. Before you make a claim on FB make sure the Facts support the claims made.

And when asked to remove such claims never say BRING IT ON… They brought it…

Considering what is out there in the Public Forum there is a case to answer.. The Van in Question.. .

Google “Expedition Portal 2018 BRUDER EXPEDITION EXP-6 Off road van” and you find the Advert. It is still For Sale.

You make your own decision whether what is advertised by Mr Coles reflects what is now claimed.

Billy Bob Thorton

Nope. We have what is called freedom of speach. Australians do not.

David J Davidzik

If the manufacturers are allowed to silence the public outing of their crappy products, what’s next, dealers too such as Mr. Lemonis and his world of camping bringing suit for someone posting on a forum such as iRV2 about terrible service they received at a given dealership?

Alvin

Tracy Leigh’s main problem in this is that she got into product naming. That in every possible case set you up for a potential lawsuit, if the claimant wishes to pursue – and nany will today, every when they are dead in the water, over whelmed with negative provable evidence to prove the accuser correct. Courts today almost always weigh in favor of the company being slandered or having their business negatively impacted. same with taking sides in social issues, have your opinion but leave the names out. Often today you need a lawyer to make certain your statement is not going to offend or cause damage to someone. Good point. A lady of color walked into a restaurant in Vancouver Canada some years ago, and because she was an albino, claimed their signature beer -Albino Rhino offended her. She won “unspecified damages”from the company. It nuts out there!

Dr4Film

I belong to private RV discussion forums, not public ones, where problems and solutions are constantly discussed. Plus RV brand, make and models are bashed often. Dealers are not welcomed in those forums hence they are banned from entering. I was a member of iRV2.com which is public but was eventually banned for telling people the truth. There is life after iRV2.com

Rick

I believe you will find hundreds of examples where consumer product manufacturers have stopped an owner with posting data on social media with the mere threat of a lawsuit. Some owners seem to think they can embellish or out right lie about a problem without repercussions….most recently an owner indicated they had severe water leaks throughout their RV…”destroying carpet, flooring and flooring.” The OEM, under their warranty, examined the unit and found one leak under the kitchen sink that allowed 6 ounces of water every 24 hours to leak. Nothing was ruined. Upon completion, the OEM required the owner to sign an agreement admitting they had misrepresented the issue.

TP

Classic example of what is known as a SLAP lawsuit. The company has the deep pockets to bring the suit, and you the individual, has to fork out all the legal fees to defend yourself.

Ed D.

I am not sure how that would play out in the USA. We do have something here called the Constitution, which enables our right to free speech. Having said that, if a consumer encounters a problem with an RV and the Dealer or the Manufacture, refuse to address the problem, we have a right, under the First Amendment, to voice our frustrations to the public. As long as you are being truthful with your discussion and not slandering or defaming a company with lies, I do not believe that it would be the same here.