Hybrid Vehicle Battery Failures

16/01/2018 13:00

The Consumer Council of Fiji is concerned with the increasing number of battery problems being encountered with the hybrid vehicles on our roads.

The Council continues to receive consumer complaints in relation to hybrid vehicles and the warranty period which is not honoured by the traders when consumers seek redress. Since 2015, a total of 28 cases have been received worth more than $290,000 relating to hybrid vehicles. Six of these complaints were concerning the hybrid batteries.

The Council is particularly worried with the attitude of a handful of deceptive traders who are still thriving in the marketplace at the expense of innocent consumers.

Recently a case was lodged at the Council where the complainant had purchased a Toyota Prius 1.8L from a trader for $19,000, with a 3 month warranty on the battery. After using the vehicle for only 5 days, the complainant noticed that the “check-light” of the vehicle was switched on indicating a problem. Hence, the vehicle was taken to the trader for diagnosis and without any explanation on the cause of the problem, the trader fixed the problem. 

 Surprisingly, the issue resurfaced on three other occasions and the trader simply applied ‘Band-Aid treatment’ and returned the vehicle. However, when the warranty period had lapsed and the consumer had taken the car back for the same problem, he was advised that the “check-light” indicated that the battery of the vehicle needed to be changed and the complainant would have to bear the cost of replacement. As per the Council’s findings, the cost of a battery ranges from $1800-$2500. The 1.8L Prius car has 28 battery cells and if a cell is damaged, the cost of replacing a cell ranges from $50 to $330.

 The Council noted that the vehicle was attended by the trader on numerous occasions during the warranty period but the issue was not fixed entirely. The situation required replacing the battery during the warranty period. However, once the warranty period had expired, the problem was identified which required the complainant to pay $200 for servicing and incidental costs for the replacement of the battery cells.

The trader failed to rectify the problem when the complainant had been facing difficulties since the purchasing of the vehicle.

The Council would like to urge traders to comply with the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission Act 2010. Section 75 of the Act states: “A person shall not, in trade or commerce engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive.”

 On the other hand, consumers must be vigilant when indulging in motor vehicle purchases. They need to understand their rights and responsibilities well prior to spending their savings on motor vehicles.

The Council strongly believes that the car industry needs an overhaul when it comes to traders not honouring warranties, inaccuracies on fuel consumption, and lack of information provided to independent repairers in order for them to do their job. Unscrupulous traders must be taken to task for taking advantage of the vulnerable positions of the consumers and breaching the national laws.