Ford Just Got Fined $10 Million After Blaming Customers For Mechanical Faults

Image: Ford

Today the Federal Court declared that Ford will pay $10 million in penalties, by consent, after failing to adequately respond to customer complaints about Fiesta, Focus and EcoSport vehicles fitted with PowerShift transmission between 1 May 2015 and 29 February 2016.

The complaints were in regards to excessive clutch shudder, excessive noisiness from the transmission, delayed acceleration and excessive shuddering and jerking when accelerating.

"Ford’s $10 million penalty is one of the largest handed down under the Australian Consumer Law and reflects the seriousness of Ford’s conduct. Ford knew that its vehicles had three separate quality issues, but dealt with affected customers in a way which the Court has declared to be unconscionable,” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.

According to the ACCC website, "Ford communicated with its dealers about the quality issues on multiple occasions, but did not provide adequate information about the quality issues to the customers who complained to Ford about their vehicles."

“Despite knowing that shuddering was a symptom of the quality issues with the vehicles, Ford frequently told customers that shuddering was the result of the customer’s driving style. Ford knew that the symptoms of the quality issues with the vehicles were experienced intermittently, but required customers to demonstrate them on demand in the presence of a dealer in order for repairs to be undertaken,” Mr Sims said.

Not only that, it seems that Ford put the blame back on customers.

"Despite knowing that shuddering was a symptom of the quality issues with the vehicles, Ford frequently told customers that shuddering was the result of the customer’s driving style. Ford knew that the symptoms of the quality issues with the vehicles were experienced intermittently, but required customers to demonstrate them on demand in the presence of a dealer in order for repairs to be undertaken," Mr Sims said.

"In most cases, Ford refused to provide a refund or no-cost replacement vehicle to consumers, even after vehicles had undergone multiple repairs that had not resolved consumers’ complaints."

Ford will now establish a program in order to review customer requests for refunds or replacement vehicles made between 1 May 2015 and 1 November 2016. At least 2,000 affected customers can apply for an independent arbiter to assess their complaints.

In a statement earlier today, Graeme Whickman, President and CEO Ford Motor Company admitted fault in regards to the time it took to address consumer complaints, citing volume and inadequate processes as causes.

"We took too long to identify the issues and we acknowledge that PowerShift customers did not have complaints handled appropriately between May 2015 and February 2016.

"We were overwhelmed with the volume of complaints and, while it was not intended, over a ten-month period our processes were inadequate and information provided was either inaccurate or incomplete. We let our customers down and for that we are sorry.

"This process has identified the challenges our customers faced and the lack of appropriate processes to effectively handle these.”

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