Company must accept design defect if vehicles need frequent repairsPosted: May 10, 2017
If a vehicle requires repeated repairs, one can infer manufacturing defect–establishes the following case.
Case Study: Naryan Thakkar had purchased a Mercedes Benz diesel car, model E 220(211). It was purchased in 2003 for Rs 34,88,105. He also spent Rs1,54,524 to get the vehicle registered.
The vehicle was purchased on July 28, 2003, was covered under a two years’ warranty .Within 18 months of purchase, there was a problem with the turbo charger and the engine mount. As spare parts were not available, the vehicle stood idle for a considerable period, awaiting repairs.
After considerable correspondence, the service representative of Daimler Chrysler, inspected the vehicle at Auto Hanger. He also extended the warranty for a further period of four months. The vehicle continued to give problems.
Thakkar filed a complaint before the Maharashtra State Commission. He pointed out that in another case, taking cognizance of an article published in Times Global Business, which had reported about problems when Mercedes had launched its E Class series in 2002 and faced a barrage of complaints about cars not starting or breakingdown repeatedly , the manufacturer had withdrawn 1.3 million defective cars. Thakkar pointed out that the same treatment was not given to Indian customers. Since the company had failed to replace his car, he sought a refund of Rs 36,42,629, claimed a reimbursement of the interest paid for a bank loan to purchase the car. In addition, he demanded a refund of Rs 20,40,871incurred on repairs of the vehicle and asked for compensation and costs.
Auto Hanger contested the case stating that the service centre is only provided certain spares to cover replacements required due to normal wear and tear. If other parts are required, these have to be procured from the logistics centre located in Pune or have to be obtained from the Regional Centre in Singapore or the global centre in Germany has to supply the parts. So Auto Hanger claimed that it could not be faulted for its inability to replace the parts.
Diamler Chrysler questioned the maintainability of the complaint,contending that the vehicle was used for commercial purpose. It alsotried to attribute the problem to unprecedented floods in July 2005 andtermed this to be a natural disaster for which it could not be heldresponsible. The company stated that the vehicle should be inspected by an approved laboratory at Thakkar’s cost to ascertain if there was any manufacturing defect.
The state commission observed that no evidence was produced to show that the vehicle was being used for commercial purpose. So the complaint was held to be maintainable. Defects had developed during the warranty period, and the complaint was filed within two years. So the complaint was held to be within limitation.
On merits, the commission noted that the defects had even before the deluge of July 2005. Even after replacement of several parts, problems persisted. On December 8, 2006, the manufacturer had noted that the torque converter required replacement. The commission concluded that this established that there was a manufacturing defect in the vehicle, without the necessity of it being examined by a laboratory .
Accordingly, by its order of April 28, delivered by P B Joshi along with D R Shirsao, the state commission held Diamler Chrysler and Auto Hanger jointly liable torefundRs36,42,629paidforthevehicle,alongwith12%interest from February 22, 2007 onwards. Additionally Rs 2 lakh was awarded as compensation and Rs 25,000 towards litigation costs.
Conclusion: Testing is not required as repeated defects establish manufacturing defect.
(The author is a consumer activist and has won the Govt. of India’s National Youth Award for Consumer Protection. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org)