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