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Watchdog busts Toyota for fake leather claims
ACCC stings Toyota for incorrect claims about leather seats in 98,500 cars
12 Feb 2013
THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has busted Toyota for making false claims about leather seats in around 98,500 passenger cars and SUVs sold between 2005 and 2009.
The ACCC found that from “at least” 2005 to 2009, Toyota Australia incorrectly advertised certain Camry, Aurion, Prado and Kluger models as featuring genuine leather, when in fact the seats also had synthetic inserts.
Australia’s competition watchdog also expressed “concern” that, after 2009, several Toyota dealers misled customers by telling them that company terms such as ‘leather accents’ or ‘leather accented’ represented full-leather upholstery, when at least some of the material used was artificial.
In a statement, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the organisation was “concerned that consumers were likely to have been misled by these claims”.
“If consumers are prepared to pay a premium to have quality finishes for their car interiors, they are entitled to get what they paid for,” he said.
“Before making a claim about the composition of a product, businesses need to ensure that what they say does not risk misleading consumers.
“These practices affect consumers and competitors alike by creating an unfair advantage and will be taken very seriously by the ACCC.”
Toyota Australia has admitted that it may have engaged in misleading conduct in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
It has also recognised the ACCC’s concerns about the claims made in its marketing material, as well as by dealers.
In a company statement, Toyota apologised to any customer who felt they were misled by the advertising, and said in “most cases, everything that people sit on or touch is genuine leather in the affected vehicle models”.
“The areas where synthetic material is used are those that are more prone to wear and tear, such as the back of the seat and door trim. This helps make the areas easier to clean and wear more consistently,” the company said.
“As soon as we became aware of the issue we changed our advertising materials to ‘leather accent’ or ‘leather accented’. This change was made to indicate that the interior was a combination of genuine leather and synthetic material.
“We also provided appropriate training materials to our dealers and will continue to work with them to ensure they are providing customers with accurate product information.”
The company also said it would give affected customers a $200 discount from the purchase price of their next Toyota, should they choose to buy one. Call 1800 869 682 for details.
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