Why are car recalls rarely called recalls?


By Prof Dr. Marimuthu Nadason

The general public has presumably been on their toes lately due to multiple sources of concerns to their safety when driving their cars.

Reports of Honda having no stocks of parts to correct the potentially fatal airbag installation in their fleet and several other brands recalling cars due to the same problems are plaguing the media and causing distress to car owners.

It looks like Malaysians are stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to airbags – damned if you do and damned if you don’t. We have been down this road many times.

What advice do we give drivers of cars with this kinds of airbags? Some say make sure no one sits in the passenger seat next to the driver. What about the driver? Should he or she wear a helmet and a bullet-proof vest?

The Malaysian Association of Standards Users monitors consumer product recalls and also complaints. Complaints and recalls related to passenger cars never fail to overwhelm us.

Several thousands of car complaints are received annually, totalling millions of ringgit in potential losses to consumers. These complaints are received by the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC).

Most complaints are related to new cars not performing as intended and brand owners and service centres alike failing to rectify these problems.

In addition to poor quality services, consumers in Malaysia put up with unsafe vehicles, which are not taken off the road in a timely manner.

Malaysian Association of Standards Users is utterly disappointed with both regulators and car manufacturers for the failure to protect the general public from unsafe vehicles.

We seek to know the one authority in Malaysia who can enforce laws that guarantee only safe vehicles are on the roads and if at all safety-related recalls are notified, the general public responds accordingly to get their problems fixed promptly without additional problems thereafter.

Go to some of the automobile websites and you only find safety alerts (if you are lucky) buried under several promotional information.

Recalls are rarely called recalls. They are called service campaigns or product updates by some brand owner websites.

There are international guidelines already available to manage effective recalls. If the same car manufacturers can call recalls as recalls in the US, Europe or Singapore, why is it called anything but that in Malaysia?

Why the double standards? Are Malaysians who have to give an arm and a leg to own cars not qualified to get products which are safe and perform as intended?

Malaysian Association of Standards Users and consumer organisations are not regulators, but we have gone to great lengths to bring the issues and problems related to car safety to the attention of the relevant authorities and car manufacturers.

We hope the general public will collectively take action to send a strong message to brand owners that safety of Malaysian drivers is top priority if their brands are to thrive in Malaysia.

We have collectively taken such measures in the not so distant past with one brand of car with gear problems and a telecommunication service provider for poor service plans.

Taking collective action is one of the five universal responsibilities of consumers globally and getting safe products is one of the eight universal rights of consumers. Businesses must respect these rights.

*Prof Dr Marimuthu Nadason is the president of Malaysian Association of Standards Users.

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