Airbags are widely accepted to be an absolute lifesaver in case you find yourself in a car crash but what happens when the same safety equipment that is installed in your car to save you from a serious injury, causes one? Something similar happened with Takata airbags that vehicles came installed with. In Australia, voluntary recalls for replacing defective airbags began in 2009, but it was made compulsory in 2018. Around four million defective airbags were identified for replacement after a death occurred in Sydney in a car crash.
Now, Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken the German luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz in its scope and has alleged that the company has downplayed the actual risks posed by the defective airbags.
What’s the risk exactly?
For the uninitiated, the defective Takata airbags can lead to a rupture in the inflator mechanism and in rare instances, it can send potentially hazardous metal fragments flying in the cabin. The recall to replace the defective airbags resulted in the world’s largest automotive recall impacting 100 million vehicles.
If there’s such a life-threatening risk in driving a car, the manufacturer should make sure to be quick on its feet to avoid any further damage to the occupants but the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said staff at Mercedes call centre told customers it was “okay” to use vehicles that were more than six years old and that the recall was precautionary as there have been no major incidents. “These alleged representations used language which was inconsistent with the requirements of the compulsory recall notice,” it said.
The ACCC is taking the German carmaker to the Federal Court, alleging that on 73 occasions between July 2018 and March 2020, in communications with consumers, Mercedes staff downplayed the risks posed by the defective airbags.
Downplaying such a major issue isn’t what you really expect from a luxury carmaker like Mercedes-Benz. Especially when people actually buy their car, shelling a lot of their hard-earned moolah, expecting that they would be safe behind the wheel even if the situation gets a bit hairy.