21 September 2017
Consumer group CHOICE has welcomed the Federal Government's decision to initiate a compulsory recall of potentially lethal Takata airbags that, if finalised, will see car companies who don't quickly replace airbags be forced to provide refunds to car owners.
"We welcome this strong action from the Minister which comes after a long running CHOICE investigation that revealed a series of failures by car companies to notify the public of the risks they faced," says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.
At least eight manufacturers still have Takata airbags in their cars but haven't voluntarily issued a recall, including: Audi, Ford, Jaguar, VW, GM Holden, Porsche, Mercedes Benz and Tesla.
"Upgrading this recall from voluntary to compulsory status means that businesses that do the wrong thing can be hit with serious penalties so the car companies are on notice.
"Today the Minister released the draft compulsory recall and there's now eighteen days of consultation that will occur before the recall is finalised. Under the Australian Consumer Law, suppliers who fail to comply with compulsory recall notices are committing a criminal offence.  The penalty for body corporates is $1.1m," Mr Kirkland says.
The draft compulsory recall notice requires car suppliers to take a range of actions at their cost, giving consumers a concrete pathway to a safe car or a refund. These actions include recalling the vehicles on a specified timetable based on the safety risk so as to enable the faulty airbag to be replaced:
- Within one business day of the consumer contacting the supplier, if the airbag contains one of the more dangerous 'alpha' inflators.
- Within one month of the consumer contacting the supplier, if the airbag does not contain an alpha inflator but is five years or older.
- Within six years from when the airbag was manufactured for all other recalled Takata airbags.
Where replacement airbags are not provided within the timeframes specified in the draft notice, or if the replacement process itself will take more than 24 hours, the car supplier must provide the consumer with an acceptable replacement car. If this is not done, refunds must be provided to consumers on request.
"Now consumers have a clear indication of how quickly they can expect their dangerous cars to be replaced, and the ability to seek a refund when car manufacturers are dragging their heels on replacements," says Mr Kirkland.
"Through our investigation we revealed many consumers were forced to wait in excess of six months before receiving any form of remedy. This is clearly an unreasonable period of time to wait to have a serious safety issued resolved.
"We also revealed car companies making like-for-like replacements of dodgy airbags without notifying consumers of the ongoing risk and that some companies failed to disclose the heightened risk consumers face from 'alpha' inflators. The recall notice addresses these very problems; it would force car manufacturers to take quick action for alpha cases and tell consumers if they are getting a like-for-like replacement."
In addition to the timetable for repairs and clear refund rights, the draft recall notice requires suppliers to:
- Take better steps to locate affected consumers (including those who bought their car second-hand).
- Communicate the safety risks more clearly to affected consumers.
Establish a database that is accessible to consumers. For further information on the compulsory recall and CHOICE's airbag investigation visit: www.choice.com.au.
Media contact: Tom Godfrey, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669
 Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), Schedule 2 Australian Consumer Law, s199.