The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the peak body that represents the automotive manufacturers and importers in Australia, has hit back at claims by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that it is not looking after car owners properly.
In a statement, the FCAI took issue with the ACCC’s claims that the automotive sector, both the car brands and dealers, are not handling complaints appropriately and restricting independent repairers access to technical information in order to force owners to service their cars at dealerships.
“The industry strives to deliver the best outcomes for its customers through offering world-class technology, safety, value and service to Australian consumers; a commitment which is underpinned by both consumer law and the manufacturers’ warranty and support mechanisms,” the FCAI statement read.
The FCAI was reacting to the release of a draft report by the ACCC that has highlighted three key areas it believes the car industry needs to address in order to better look after car owners.
“Complaints to the ACCC about new car manufacturers have risen to more than 10,000 over the past two years,” ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims, said. “Our draft report highlights the urgent need to address widespread issues in the industry.”
The first major issue the ACCC has raised surrounds the way manufacturers handle complaints, with the consumer watchdog suggesting carmakers do not give the full and relevant details of what car buyers are entitled to under the Australian Consumer Law. Specifically, owner’s right to request repairs for minor faults and a replacement vehicle if the fault is significant.
Further, the ACCC supports proposed changes to the consumer law that would allow owners to get a replacement or refund for repeated minor faults, which it argues amount to a major fault. Such changes have also been dubbed 'lemon laws', and similar laws exist in other countries.
“The ACCC is deeply concerned about the level of non-compliance with the Australian Consumer Law in the new car industry,” Sims said. “We will continue to take action to address failures by car manufacturers and retailers to provide the remedies to which consumers are entitled.”
The second major issue flagged by the ACCC regards the way car manufacturers control the latest technical information about its cars, specifically the restriction of the latest information to independent repairers. The current generation of new vehicles are highly sophisticated, particularly diagnostics, requiring detailed information from the manufacturer.
The ACCC report claims manufacturers are not providing the relevant information in a timely fashion to independent operators to persuade customers to return to official dealerships for servicing.
“Car manufacturers should be required to share new cars’ technical information with independent repairers,” said Sims.
“For new cars to be properly repaired and serviced, independent repairers need access to electronic information and data produced by car manufacturers.
“This lack of competition hurts new car buyers who have fewer options to get the best deal for repairs and servicing, and restricts independent repairers from competing on a level playing field.”
The final issue raised in the draft report is about fuel consumption ratings. The ACCC has backed research by the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) that suggests real-world fuel consumption is on average 25 percent higher than the laboratory tests carried out by car makers.
In some cases, the AAA study found fuel economy to be up to 60 percent higher in the real world than is claimed by the car manufacturer.
Sims said the ACCC wants the industry to develop more accurate systems for determining real-world fuel economy so consumers can make a clearer choice.
“Car manufacturers and dealers must ensure the representations to consumers about fuel consumption and emissions are accurate and appropriately qualified," Sims said. "We also support introducing more realistic laboratory tests and an on-road ‘real driving emissions’ test to give people more accurate information before they buy,”
The AAA, which is the peak motoring club body, has used the report to continue its push for real world fuel consumption testing to be introduced by the Federal Government.
“In the wake of today’s ACCC report, the AAA renews its call on the Australian Government to introduce a real driving emissions testing program, conducted in Australia, using Australian fuels, to provide consumers accurate information,” AAA Chief Executive, Michael Bradley, said.
“Real driving emissions testing is the best way to ensure Australians can buy a car that suits their budget.”
The ACCC will continue to take submissions until September 7 before it releases the final report by the end of the year.
The FCAI has vowed to work with the ACCC to provide relevant information according to its statement.
“The industry looks forward to working closely with the ACCC to provide more information about the complex matters raised in the draft report,” the FCAI release read.
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