Legal action is being taken against Ford Australia amid accusations it mistreated customers who companied about faulty cars.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is alleging that the automotive manufacturer engaged in ‘unconscionable and misleading or deceptive conduct, and made false or misleading representations in its response to customer complaints’.
The customer complaints were about Ford’s Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport vehicles supplied in Australia between 2011 and 2016, which featured a type of transmission known as PowerShift Transmission (PST).
The ACCC estimates that about half of the 70,000 vehicles sold had at least one repair relating to the PST. Customers made complaints to Ford and its dealers about their car’s excessive shuddering and jerking when accelerating, loss of gear selection and sudden loss of power and/or excessive noisiness from the PST.
From 2011 to May 2015, Ford allegedly refused to provide a refund or replacement vehicle to consumers, even after vehicles had undergone multiple repairs that had not fixed the issue. In most cases, Ford only provided replacement vehicles in accordance with its “PowerShift Ownership Loyalty Program”, which required consumers to make a significant payment towards a replacement vehicle, some reaching AU$7,000.
As a result, customers who could not afford to make these payments felt that they had no option but to continue to use their vehicles.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said: “The ACCC alleges that Ford misrepresented to customers who made complaints that the issues with their vehicles were caused by the way the driver handled the vehicle, even though Ford was aware of systemic issues with the vehicles from at least 2013.
“The ACCC is alarmed about the level of non-compliance with the Australian Consumer Law in the new car industry, which has been laid bare in our new car retailing market study due out next month. Cars are the second-most expensive purchase most consumers will ever make and if they fail to meet a consumer guarantee, people are automatically entitled to a remedy.”