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The local arm of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has detailed new plans to improve the way it handles enquiries and complaints across its stable of brands.

The announcement follows reports that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had earlier this year launched an investigation into the company’s customer care strategy.

FCA Australia has today confirmed it has cooperated with that investigation. In a statement, the company said it “acknowledged its shortcomings in handling customer enquiries and complaints under previous management”.

That reference to “previous management” points to processes implemented under the leadership of now departed CEOs Veronica Johns and, before her, Clyde Campbell.

In December, FCA Australia’s new CEO, Detroit native Pat Dougherty, told CarAdvice that one of his top priorities would be to overhaul the company’s customer service program.

Later, in January this year, the global boss of FCA’s Jeep brand, Mike Manly, acknowledged that customers in Australia had grown dissatisfied with the company’s service.

Like Dougherty, Manly said that turning the brand’s image around had been made a top priority.

Read: FCA Australia to become “world class”, says new boss
Read: Jeep working to improve customer satisfaction


Today, Dougherty said that FCA Australia has implemented “extensive changes across the business to improve the customer experience holistically, including the complaints resolution process.”

He added that the changes are due in part to the ACCC investigation, but also come as a result of the internal review carried out in the time since he was appointed to the top spot at FCA Australia late last year.

“The ACCC’s investigation highlighted shortcomings in how we’ve responded to customer concerns, an area that we were already taking measures to address. The ACCC’s involvement has provided additional impetus and introduced greater urgency to our own efforts, and will lead to FCA Australia providing a far higher level of service to both its existing and future customers.

“FCA Australia has always taken pride in its handling of aftersales care and service and considered this area a priority. In conjunction with the ACCC’s findings, FCA recognises even greater opportunities for improvements across the business and remains focused on strengthening our processes, distribution, training and communication with our dealers,” Mr Dougherty said.

The company has agreed to review individual customer complaints, most of them lodged between January 1 2013 and December 31 2014.

The review, which will be carried out “by an independent person with the assistance of FCA Australia personnel”, will focus on complaints where the customer was not satisfied with the outcome.

Customers entitled to have their complaint reviewed will be contacted by mail within the next 60 days.

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In a statement of its own, the ACCC said that it is pleased with FCA’s plan to review complaints, but that it will monitor the plan’s implementation.

The ACCC will now turn its attention to the wider automotive retail market, to investigate potential customer service issues with other brands.

“The ACCC is considering concerns about the motor vehicle industry more generally, with a particular focus on ensuring compliance with the consumer guarantee provisions of the consumer law,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

“The consumer guarantees mandate that vehicles will be fit for purpose, free from defects and as durable as a reasonable consumer would expect. Where the guarantee is not complied with, a consumer will have rights against the supplier and in some cases the manufacturer, who will have to provide a remedy.

“This means that all car manufacturers and suppliers, including dealers, need to think beyond the initial sale and invest in their aftersales care,” he said.


Consumer Redress Program

Under the consumer redress program, Chrysler will:

identify and contact customers who made a complaint to Chrysler about vehicle issues between the period 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2014, and who were refused a particular remedy by Chrysler (other than those customers whose complaints were resolved to their satisfaction or were resolved in a Court or Tribunal);

offer to have an independent person review their complaint to determine whether the outcome was in accordance with ACL or Trade Practices Act 1974 (TPA) consumer rights; and

where a review is conducted and it is determined that the outcome was not in accordance with ACL or TPA consumer rights, provide or procure that a dealer provide a remedy on Chrysler’s behalf as recommended by the independent reviewer, which is consistent with those rights.

Affected customers who are not contacted by Chrysler within 60 days should contact Chrysler’s Customer Care Assistance Centre on 1300 133 079.

Chrysler will report to the ACCC on the number of reviews undertaken and the outcomes reached.