Monday, 24 July 2017 11:50

ACCC investigating Takata killer airbag recall

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The ACCC is finally moving to investigate the Takata killer airbag scandal which has resulted in the largest vehicle recall in history.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission states that it is “urgently seeking information from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) and car manufacturers regarding Takata airbags at the centre of the largest vehicle recall in history".

Since 2009, we are told that “more than 2.3 million vehicles in Australia have become subject to the recall of airbags made by Japanese manufacturer, Takata. The airbags are in 60 makes of cars sold in Australia, including Honda, Toyota, BMW, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus, Jeep, Nissan, Chrysler, and Dodge".

The issue has worsened, with consumer advocates CHOICE discovering that some manufacturers are replacing faulty airbags with new airbags that will eventually develop the same fault, which can cause shrapnel to shoot out like a bullet, with the airbag and which can penetrate a person’s body, potentially killing them (as has already happened in cases around the world).

The ACCC states it is urging all drivers to check if their car’s airbag has been recalled by visiting the Product Safety website (direct link to recall page here).

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said: “Do not ignore or delay responding to a letter from your car’s manufacturer or retailer asking you to have your car’s airbag replaced. The airbags degrade over time and can become lethal by misdeploying and firing metal shards at the car’s occupants.”

We are told that “a man in NSW was tragically killed on 13 July when his airbag misdeployed, and a woman in the Northern Territory suffered severe injuries from her airbag after a crash in April".

“In Australia, 850,000 cars have already had their airbags replaced. Further vehicles will be added to the recall over time.”

I personally am the owner of a more than 10-year-old second-hand Mazda 6, and I received a recall letter as well from the original dealer. A call to them last week noted there was a huge delay for replacement airbags to come in, but as CHOICE has warned, would I simply be getting an airbag that will also be equally faulty down the track?

The ACCC says “due to the availability of stock worldwide, retrofitting issues and the availability of authorised technicians able to fit airbags, progress on the recall was initially slow but is improving over time as stock becomes available. Car manufacturers say there is now sufficient stock available for affected cars to be fixed".

The ACCC then makes note of CHOICE’s findings, stating: “Some cars have already had their airbag replaced with one treated with a water-absorbing chemical designed to address the problem, but these may also degrade over time. This means some cars subject to the recall may need have to have their airbags replaced again in around six years’ time.”

Sims said: “Car manufacturers and retailers must let consumers know when they are having their car’s airbag replaced what type of airbag it is being replaced with, and if it is likely to be the subject of another recall down the track.”

The ACCC states that the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development is responsible for motor vehicle safety standards and is monitoring the recall.

Sims added: “We’re seeking information from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development as to exactly what information it is requiring car manufacturers and retailers to give consumers about their car’s airbag, including the likelihood of the airbag being replaced again.

“We would have very serious concerns if manufacturers were found to be misleading consumers about their car's safety in breach of their obligations under consumer law.

“Our advice to consumers is not to panic, but to visit the Product Safety Australia website to see if their car is affected by the recall and, if it is, to contact their car’s manufacturer immediately.

“If consumers have already had their airbag replaced, they should contact their manufacturer for advice as to what kind of airbag it was replaced with and how long it is expected to last.”

The ACCC says it will “closely examine the current recall strategies employed by DIRD to ensure each manufacturer is complying with its obligations under the Australian Consumer Law".

Let’s damn well hope so, lest a minor accident in your car prove unintentionally and tragically fatal to driver or passenger.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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