The Federal Court approved a joint agreement between Ford Australia and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that Ford pay a penalty and implement a consumer redress scheme relating to its response to customer requests for a refund or no cost replacement of select vehicles fitted with PowerShift automatic transmissions.
This marks the conclusion of an investigation into Ford’s handling of requests for a refund or no cost replacement of certain Ford Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport vehicles fitted with DPS6 dry-clutch PowerShift automatic transmissions. “As we said from the outset, 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, said Graeme Whickman, President & CEO Ford Motor Company, Australia. “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. Of particular concern was the Owner Loyalty Program, which resulted in customers paying an additional cost to buy new vehicles although they may have been eligible for a refund or no cost replacement vehicle. We now realise this program was flawed as it didn’t ensure an adequate assessment of customers’ rights under consumer law. It was discontinued in November 2016.”
Ford Australia has agreed to implement a range of actions including:
- Establishing an independent complaints review program for customers who requested, but did not receive, a refund or no cost replacement vehicle between 1 May 2015 and 1 November 2016, when the Owner Loyalty Program was in operation
- Committing to a customer service charter and making information more easily accessible for customers, including about their rights under consumer law
- Upgrading and independently reviewing its Consumer Law Compliance Program and Complaints Handling System
- Improving consumer law compliance training for employees, dealers and customer service staff.
“Accepting the $10 million fine is the first action on our commitment to make right,” added Whickman.
Owners of Ford Focus, Fiesta or EcoSport vehicles with a PowerShift transmission who requested but did not receive a refund or no cost replacement vehicle between 1 May 2015 and 1 November 2016, can have their case independently reviewed. Ford will provide compensation to affected customers in line with the independent reviewer’s decision.
The review process will commence in early July 2018 and run for 12 months. However, customers can now call 13FORD or visit ford.com.au/powershift to register their email address to receive updates on the independent review process.