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Holden commits to consumer complaint reforms

Complaint department: Holden’s diesel-powered Captiva was the subject of complaints to the ACCC.

Consumer watchdog probe prompts Holden to introduce industry-first guarantee

Holden logo3 Aug 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

GM HOLDEN has agreed to sharpen its act on consumer guarantee obligations after an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) into customer complaints against the car manufacturer.

The company has announced it will introduce an industry-first 60-day guarantee on all of its new vehicles, offering the buyer a refund, replacement or repair of the vehicle if a defect renders the car undriveable in that period.

The guarantee is over and above conventional warranty obligations, and will be backed up with commitments to out-of-warranty support.

Announcing the Holden moves, the ACCC also warned other car companies to get their Australian consumer law compliance programs in order or face ACCC action over unlawful conduct.

The ACCC has in the past year launched federal court actions against several manufacturers, including Volkswagen, Audi and Ford, and is about to release a report on car retailing that it says will lift the lid on wider compliance issues.

GoAuto understands that the ACCC interest in the Holden complaints arose from a problem with some 2008-09 diesel Captiva SUVs powered by an engine supplied by Italian company VM Motori. The vehicle was recalled for repairs in 2015.

Holden said it had already started its reform process before the ACCC got involved.

The new 60-day guarantee is one of several changes by Holden to its consumer policies and commitments in what it describes as “positive, proactive steps to improve every aspect of customer service and warranty work”.

The ACCC says the court-enforceable undertaking by Holden follows the car-maker’s admission that its conduct over complaints about a manufacturing fault was likely to have contravened Australian consumer law.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said Holden acknowledged that it misrepresented to some consumers that it had discretion to decide whether the vehicle owner would be offered a refund, repair or replacement for a car with a manufacturing fault, and that any remedy was a goodwill gesture.

“Holden also accepted that some consumers were told that a remedy would not be provided because the vehicle had not been serviced by a Holden dealer or with sufficient regularity, or as the vehicle was purchased second-hand,” he said.

“The Australian consumer law includes consumer guarantees that provide remedies for major and minor faults in motor vehicles.

“The consumer guarantees operate separately to the manufacturer’s warranty, and cannot be modified to require consumers to have their vehicles serviced by authorised dealers in order to obtain a remedy.”

According to the ACCC statement, Holden had agreed to a number of reforms to fix its consumer protection measures, including: amending its internal training and dealer policies and procedures, engaging an external reviewer to look at complaints since January 2016 and provide a remedy to consumers where appropriate, and providing an information service so consumers could obtain information about any issues with the vehicle simply by providing their vehicle identification number (VIN).

Mr Sims said Holden had offered an undertaking that went beyond ensuring compliance with the current consumer guarantee obligations and committed to measures in line with recommended changes to the law.

“These are great commitments that will have a significant and positive impact for consumers,” he said.

Holden customer experience executive director Peter Jamieson said the new 60-day policy reinforced Holden’s commitment to its customers.

“Our dealer teams and the teams supporting our dealers want every customer to get the most out of their Holden vehicle,” he said. “Our 60-day policy says to our customers and dealers – we stand behind our products.

“Customers have always been at the heart of Holden, but we do recognise there has been the occasional situation in the past where we could have done better, so we have been proactive in reviewing how we respond to customer issues.”

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