22 September 2017
Consumer group CHOICE is urging Australians to get behind 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 and loan cars to owners.
"We need to drive home this compulsory recall because car companies will be fighting hard to water down the draft proposal over the next 17 days," says CHOICE’s Head of Media, Tom Godfrey.
"The fact is, CHOICE has repeatedly shown that car companies can’t be trusted to put consumer safety ahead of their own commercial interests, whether it’s failing to disclose like-for-like displacements or lethal alpha inflators.
"It’s time the Federal Government got in the driver’s seat and provided consumers with the information and power they need through a compulsory recall to keep their families safe."
"We back the Minister’s proposed plan to force car companies to offer loan cars, a tow and even refunds, and we’re calling on all consumers to do the same," Mr Godfrey says.
"Worryingly, it’s also been revealed that a further 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.
"We have contacted the ACCC requesting further information about which new makes and models are affected. Frankly, it’s unacceptable that these global car makers continue to withhold vital information from the Australian public.
"Upgrading this recall from voluntary to compulsory status means that these businesses who continue to put people’s lives at risk can face serious penalties."
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.
The Federal Government’s proposal 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.
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.
"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," Mr Godfrey says.
"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.