Stellantis Australia, the importer and distributor of Jeep vehicles in Australia, has undertaken to address ACCC concerns about the way it has handled complaints by consumers who have experienced problems with their Jeep vehicles, in a court-enforceable undertaking accepted by the ACCC.
The ACCC investigated Stellantis Australia’s response to consumer guarantee complaints after receiving many complaints from consumers about Jeep vehicles and their difficulties in obtaining remedies under the consumer guarantees which are in the Australian Consumer Law. The reasons for the complaints included lengthy delays in obtaining a remedy, vehicles requiring multiple repairs for the same issues, and delays in parts being provided.
Stellantis Australia has acknowledged the ACCC’s concerns that its staff may not have properly understood the company’s consumer law obligations when dealing with customer complaints, due to deficiencies in its internal policies.
“Consumers have rights under the Australian Consumer Law, which are independent of manufacturers’ warranties. Businesses should have appropriate systems in place to ensure they do not mislead consumers about these rights and must comply with their obligations if customers experience problems with a product or service they have purchased,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.
Under the court-enforceable undertaking, Stellantis Australia will review its procedures for handling customer complaints and make any necessary changes to ensure that consumers who experience a ‘major failure’ with their vehicle are given the refund or replacement they are entitled to.
As part of the court-enforceable undertaking, Stellantis Australia will also ensure that all customers who buy a new Jeep vehicle are advised in writing of their consumer guarantees rights. In addition, the undertaking ensures that consumers who seek to rely on their consumer guarantee rights and request a refund or replacement vehicle, receive a written response and, if applicable, are informed of the reasons why Stellantis Australia has not agreed to the requested remedy.
“As a result of Stellantis Australia’s commitments in the undertaking it has provided to the ACCC, Jeep customers will be better informed about, and more easily able to access, their consumer guarantee rights under the Australian Consumer Law,” Mr Keogh said.
Stellantis Australia has also undertaken to improve its inclusion of Australian Consumer Law rights in its internal systems and staff training, so customers are not wrongly denied remedies that they are entitled to. Stellantis Australia is required to report on these changes to the ACCC.
Access to consumer guarantee rights continues to be the most common type of motor vehicle related complaint made to the ACCC. Over the last two years, 24 per cent of complaints made to the ACCC in relation to consumer guarantees have raised issues with motor vehicles. The ACCC closely monitors these complaints and will continue to take action so that consumers who buy new vehicles receive the consumer protections they are entitled to, alongside the warranties offered by vehicle manufacturers.
Empowering consumers and improving industry compliance with statutory consumer guarantees, with a focus on high value goods including motor vehicles, is one of the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities in 2023-24.
A copy of the undertaking is available at Stellantis (Australia and New Zealand) Pty Ltd.
Stellantis Australia (previously FCA Australia Pty Ltd) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCA Minority LLC. Stellantis Australia is the local national sales company and importer of Jeep vehicles into Australia, as well as other brands including Chrysler, Dodge, Alfa Romeo and Fiat.
Stellantis Australia distributes all Jeep vehicles via its dealer network, which is the retail distribution and servicing channel for Jeep vehicles. Jeep dealerships are operated as franchises.
Under the Australian Consumer Law, there are numerous consumer guarantees that apply to new and used vehicles sold to consumers. These include that the vehicles will be of acceptable quality and will match their description. More information is available at Cars: buying or rental.
A ‘major failure’ with a product means it is unsafe, very different from the description, or has either one serious problem or several smaller problems that would stop a reasonable consumer from buying the product if they knew these issues existed. For example, for a new car, this could include a manufacturing defect that causes excessive shuddering or unexpected loss of power.
The ACCC has previously accepted court-enforceable undertakings from a number of businesses across the motor vehicle industry to address consumer guarantee issues, most recently from Toyota Australia.
In 2021, the Federal Court found that Mazda Australia engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations to nine consumers about their consumer guarantee rights, in proceedings brought by the ACCC. In March 2023, the Full Federal Court dismissed an appeal by Mazda Australia in relation to the finding that Mazda Australia made false representations to consumers about their consumer rights.