Mercedes-Benz Fined $12 Million Over Australian Airbag Recall

Mercedes-Benz Fined $12 Million Over Australian Airbag Recall

Mercedes-Benz has been fined $12.5 million in Australia for failing to comply with a recall communication plan for its faulty Takata airbags.

The German auto company, the ACCC said, failed to use “attention-capturing, high-impact language” when communicating with Mercedes owners the compulsory nature of the Takata airbag recall.

The Takata airbag recall affected over 100 million vehicles internationally across several brands and was the most significant recall in Australian history, involving over three million vehicles in the country. The airbags were defective because moisture could infiltrate and degrade the quality of the airbag and its ability to deploy.

In Australia, one person died and another was seriously injured from the faulty airbags. Globally, 33 deaths and 350 injuries were recorded.

“We believe the statements made by Mercedes staff had the potential to give the impression to consumers that the airbag replacement was less urgent than was warranted by the real risks posed by the faulty airbags,” said Delia Rickard, the deputy chair of the ACCC.

“Given the risks of misdeployment increased over time, we were concerned about the risks of any potential for delay in having these faulty airbags replaced.”

According to the ACCC, Mercedes admitted that it had breached Australian Consumer Law by failing to implement its communication and engagement plan for recalling the airbags.

This was originally alleged by the ACCC in August 2021 and now the federal court has made a decision. In 2020, the ACCC reported that Mercedes failed to initiate a recall of some cars with Takata airbags and a year later, the ACCC reported that 99.9 per cent of cars with potentially faulty Takata airbags had been recalled.

“The faulty Takata airbags have the potential to misdeploy and send sharp metal fragments into the vehicle cabin at high speed, which could kill or seriously injure the occupants,” added Rickard.

“The faulty Takata airbags were a potentially deadly issue, and it was vital for the safety of Australian drivers and passengers that manufacturers took the risks seriously, and clearly communicated the risks to consumers.”

Rickard added that this is the first time a company has been fined for failing to comply with a mandatory legal notice, adding that it sends a strong signal to companies that they need to comply with the Australian Consumer Law.

The ACCC has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Mercedes, where the manufacturer will complete a product-safety compliance program about product safety obligations.

A spokesperson for Mercedes told Gizmodo Australia that the “actions of Mercedes-Benz Australia were not deliberate”.

“In 27 telephone exchanges from more than 50,000 calls between consumers and our dedicated Takata call centre, it was established that five contractors failed to use attention-capturing, high-impact language required by the Recall Notice, in contravention of the ACL,” the spokesperson said.

“Mercedes-Benz vehicles do not contain the Takata ‘Alpha’ airbags considered higher risk within the Recall Notice. Mercedes-Benz vehicles were fitted with ‘Beta’ airbags, and the Recall Notice permitted owners to continue driving their vehicles until the repair was undertaken. To date, the affected airbags have been replaced in more than in 99.5 percent of the Mercedes-Benz vehicles involved in the recall in Australia.”

The spokesperson added that Mercedes is continuing to contact the owners of outstanding vehicles with recalled Takata airbags.

If you own a Mercedes, enter your VIN on the official recall webpage to see if you’re affected. Alternatively, call 1300 659 307. You can read the original recall notice on the Product Safety website.

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