Fiat Chrysler buy­back in U.S. shows gap in Cana­dian con­sumer pro­tec­tion: group

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - BUSINESS -

A U.S. or­der re­quir­ing Fiat Chrysler to buy back thou­sands of Dodge Ram pick­ups and Chrysler SUVs does not ap­ply to Canada, a dis­crep­ancy that high­lights a weak­ness in con­sumer pro­tec­tion here, na­tional ad­vo­cacy groups say.

The US$105 mil­lion fine and buy­back pro­gram for up to a third of 579,000 ve­hi­cles was im­posed on Fiat Chrysler by the U.S. gov­ern­ment on Mon­day.

The Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion pun­ished the com­pany af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into nearly two dozen re­calls found it botched its re­sponse by not do­ing enough to no­tify cus­tomers and get the af­fected ve­hi­cles off the road and re­paired.

Ken White­hurst, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Con­sumers Coun­cil of Canada, said Cana­di­ans of­ten as­sume con­sumer pro­tec­tions are stronger here than in the more busi­ness-friendly U.S. in many ar­eas, in­clud­ing ve­hi­cle safety, but the op­po­site is true.

“Trans­port Canada doesn't have the pow­ers to act force­fully the way we see in the United States,” he said.

“Canada de­pends quite a lot on com­pa­nies for re­cip­ro­cal ac­tion when it comes to re­calls.”

White­hurst said in the past, Cana­dian com­pa­nies have mostly played by the rules and main­tained a cul­ture of re­spon­si­bil­ity, but the multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions that play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in the Cana­dian econ­omy are in­dif­fer­ent.

Trans­port Canada, un­like its Amer­i­can coun­ter­part, has lim­ited au­thor­ity to force au­tomak­ers to ad­dress safety is­sues and im­pose pun­ish­ments. It only re­ceived the power to com­pel com­pa­nies to no­tify Cana­di­ans about safety prob­lems with their ve­hi­cles in May.

Pre­vi­ously, Trans­port Canada could not no­tify Cana­di­ans of safety prob­lems with­out the co­op­er­a­tion of au­tomak­ers.

Bruce Cran, pres­i­dent of the Con­sumers' As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada, said while the automotive safety laws were up­dated this year, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment needs to do far more to em­power Canada's con­sumer pro­tec­tion and safety agen­cies.

“Suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments have ne­glected con­sumers in this re­gard,” he said.

“As a na­tion, I think we're be­ing left be­hind.”

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