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Motor industry holds fire on ACCC accusations

Fuel change: Real-world fuel economy tests by AAA in Australia have been quoted by the ACCC in its accusations against the motor industry.

FCAI says it will work closely with consumer watchdog over ‘complex matters’

10 Aug 2017

THE peak body for motor manufacturers in Australia, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), has decided to keep its powder dry on its reaction to accusations levelled at the new-car industry in a report released today by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

Releasing a three-paragraph statement in response to the 145-page draft report on the new-car retailing industry, the FCAI said it looked forward to working closely with the ACCC to provide more information about “complex matters raised in the draft report”.

In the ACCC’s document – which was withheld from industry bodies before its release late last night – the consumer watchdog made wide-ranging recommendations to reform what it describes as “widespread issues” within the industry, especially in areas such as consumer relations, sharing of car repair data with independent repairers and inaccurate fuel consumption claims.

Rather than poke the bear with an inflammatory public defence of its position, the FCAI and the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) both have decided to fully absorb the implications of the draft recommendations and then take their responses directly to the ACCC via submissions due next month, followed by planned round-table discussions.

The FCAI statement said: “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.”

As GoAuto has reported, one high-profile FCAI member company, GM Holden, has already been through a negotiation process with the ACCC over alleged breaches of consumer relations rules, coming up with new policies and procedures that both Holden and the ACCC can live with.

The issues surrounding data sharing with independent repairers might be more problematic to resolve, as might the claims about fuel economy figures that are based on an official Australian test regime.

While car manufacturers and their dealers take their time to respond to the draft report, the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) has applauded the ACCC action.

The AAA, which represents state motoring clubs such as the NRMA, RACV and RACQ, said the report shone a light on challenges facing consumers in buying and running a new car.

Chief executive Michael Bradley said the AAA had long argued that consumers were not given accurate information on the real-world emissions and fuel use of cars they intend to buy.

“We have also highlighted the fact that competition in the vehicle repair sector will continue to be curtailed unless car manufacturers provide detailed vehicle service and repair information to independent repairers,” he said.

“The ACCC has today confirmed the issues the AAA and consumers have raised are real and, in so doing, has put the government on notice that action will be required.”

The AAA said its real-world driving emissions tests in Melbourne showed vehicle fuel use and emissions up to 60 per cent higher than claimed on the government’s mandated Fuel Consumption Label and 25 per cent higher on average.

It also said the preliminary results show on-road noxious gas emissions up to eight times the legal limit.

“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,” Mr Bradley said.

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