ACCC looking under Chrysler's bonnet over 'lemon' cars

FIAT Chrysler Australia has agreed to an independent review of customer complaints in a deal with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, but "lemon law" advocates remain unhappy about the process and its narrow focus.

Maroochydore IT professional Aston Wood destroyed his $50,000 Jeep that he says was riddled with faults after failing to get satisfaction from Fiat Chrysler Australia.

In the process he won a Queensland Government commitment to push for national "lemon" laws to protect new-vehicle customers.

Now following the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation into consumer guarantee, complaints concerning faulty vehicles and Chrysler's handling of those complaints, the car company has agreed to set up a consumer redress program.

Under an agreement, all vehicle fault complaints from January 2013 to December 2014 will be investigated by an independent reviewer.

Fiat Chrysler Australia (FCA) distributes several vehicle brands in Australia including Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Chrysler.

Mr Wood describes the outcome as "a little weak" when contrasted with the example set by US and Canadian federal governments.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fined FCA $105 million and Canada has launched a $5.2 billion lawsuit against the company.

"The ACCC announcement of 'a slap on the wrist' makes Australia looks like a laughing stock," Mr Wood said.

"The consumer guarantees mandate that vehicles will be fit for purpose, free from defects and as durable as a reasonable consumer would expect," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

"Where the guarantee is not complied with, a consumer will have rights against the supplier and in some cases the manufacturer, who will have to provide a remedy.

"This means that all car manufacturers and suppliers, including dealers, need to think beyond the initial sale and invest in their after-sales care."

FCA customers can agree to have their previous complaints reviewed, with the car-maker committing to implement the remedy recommended by the independent reviewer.

The ACCC will monitor the scheme's implementation.

Mr Wood is concerned that FCA has been given a further 60 days to do what it should already have been doing and that it, rather than the ACCC, has appointed the "independent" reviewer.

He and fellow lemon law advocates want the ACCC to follow up each customer who lodged a complaint to see if those people have been contacted by FCA. They also want the ACCC to explain the penalties FCA would face for non-compliance.

Affected customers who are not contacted by Chrysler within 60 days should contact 1300 133 079.



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