The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is appealing a decision from the Federal Court of Australia, which found Mazda had not engaged in unconscionable conduct when dealing with numerous unhappy customers.
Mazda Australia has also filed an appeal of its own against the ruling.
Though the Court dismissed the ACCC’s allegations about unconscionable conduct in its ruling in November 2021, it did find Mazda had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and that it had made false or misleading representations.
“In addition to finding that Mazda made false or misleading representations, the Court found that Mazda gave consumers the ‘run-around’ by engaging in evasion and subterfuges, provided appalling customer service and failed to make any genuine attempt to consider and apply the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law,” said ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver.
“We will argue that based on the Court’s factual findings, Mazda’s conduct fell below the applicable norms of commercial behaviour, and was in all the circumstances unconscionable.”
Mazda Australia has also appealed the finding, denying claims of misleading conduct.
“Mazda has also filed an appeal seeking to have various findings of misleading conduct made against it overturned. Mazda maintains that the trial judge was correct in finding that Mazda had not engaged in any unconscionable conduct,” it said in a statement.
In his November 2021 ruling, Justice O’Callaghan found Mazda’s conduct represented “appalling customer service” but rejected the ACCC’s allegations of unconscionable conduct.
“The fact that Mazda did not always give the consumers precisely what they were seeking was not unconscionable conduct,” said Federal Court Justice O’Callaghan in the ruling.
The Court found the company made 49 individual false or misleading representations about consumer rights to customers seeking refunds for Mazda 2, 6, CX-3, CX-5, and BT-50 vehicles with recurring faults.
The case concerned seven vehicles and nine separate customers.
One customer had their engine replaced three times, but continued to experience problems with their car.
The ACCC alleged consumers were forced to contact Mazda multiple times over months and even years, as they continued to experience faults with their vehicles ranging from defective headlights to a sudden loss of engine power.
It alleged that, between 2017 and 2019, each of the customers requested a refund or a replacement vehicle within a year or two of purchase. The ACCC initiated proceedings against Mazda in October 2019.
Federal Court Justice O’Callaghan found Mazda represented to customers they were only entitled to a repair, offered to refund only a part of the initial purchase price, or offered replacement cars to the customers on the condition they paid for them.
“The Court found that Mazda misled these consumers about their consumer guarantee rights by representing that they were only entitled to have their vehicles repaired, even though a consumer’s rights under the Australian Consumer Law also include a refund or replacement when there is a major failure,” the ACCC said in a statement.
“Mazda did not follow its own compliance policies in dealing with the consumers’ complaints, and sought to discourage consumers from pursuing their right to a refund or a replacement vehicle,” Ms Carver alleged.
The court hasn’t yet handed down a penalty to Mazda Australia. Previous cases brought by the ACCC, however, have led to court-enforceable undertakings from Volkswagen, Holden, and Hyundai designed to improve their compliance with Australian Consumer Law.
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