The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched legal action against Mercedes-Benz over its handling of the Takata airbag recall.
- The ACCC alleges Mercedes-Benz failed to convey that the airbags posed the risk of serious injury or death
- Mercedes-Benz says it takes its compliance with consumer law seriously
- The vehicle recall was the biggest in Australian history
The consumer watchdog alleges the car maker failed to convey that the airbags posed the risk of serious injury or death during its communications with customers between July 2018 and March 2020.
Under the recall, defective Takata airbags across all car brands were to be replaced by the end of last year.
“We allege that Mercedes-Benz exposed consumers to the risks of serious injury or death because it used language which minimised these risks, and gave the impression that the recall was precautionary and that there was no urgency in having the airbags replaced,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.
The ACCC said examples of what consumers were told by Mercedes-Benz staff included: “We’ve not actually had any problems with our airbags but we are recalling them for customer peace of mind anyway.”
Another example was: “You are still okay to drive your vehicle up until the point of completion of this recall, and that’s due to the fact that the Beta hasn’t shown any faults.”
Mercedes-Benz said it was aware of the proceedings, was committed to the safety of its customers and took its compliance with Australian consumer law seriously.
“Mercedes-Benz vehicles do not contain Takata ‘Alpha’ airbags identified as critical by the ACCC, and the recall process overseen by the ACCC did not require affected Mercedes-Benz vehicles to be off the road or owners to cease driving them until the repair was undertaken,” the company said in a statement.
Mercedes-Benz said owners of vehicles with affected airbags were sent at least six letters, emails and SMS messages “which emphasise the importance and urgency of the recall”.
The ACCC said car manufacturers had successfully recalled 99.9 per cent of vehicles affected by the airbags.
It was Australia’s first compulsory motor vehicle recall the biggest vehicle recall in its history, affecting over 4 million airbags in about 3 million vehicles.