Ford and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have agreed on a penalty and settlement over the long-running, widely-noted problems with PowerShift dual-clutch transmissions.
The settlement will see Ford pay a $10 million fine, and undertake the actions listed below:
- Establish an independent complaints review program for customers who requested but did not receive a refund or no cost replacement vehicle between 1 May 2015 and 1 November 2016, when the Owner Loyalty Program was in operation
- Commit to a customer service charter and making information more easily accessible for customers, including about their rights under consumer law
- Upgrade and independently review its Consumer Law Compliance Program and Complaints Handling System
- Improve consumer law compliance training for employees, dealers and customer service staff.
"As we said from the outset of this action - we took too long to identify the issues and we acknowledge that PowerShift customers did not have complaints handled appropriately between May 2015 and February 2016,” said Graeme Whickman, president and CEO of Ford Australia said today.
“We were overwhelmed with the volume of complaints and, while it was not intended, over a ten-month period our processes were inadequate and information provided was either inaccurate or incomplete. We let our customers down and for that we are sorry.
“This process has identified the challenges our customers faced and the lack of appropriate processes to effectively handle these," he continued.
“Of particular concern was the Owner Loyalty Program, which resulted in customers paying an additional cost to buy new vehicles although they may have been eligible for a refund or no cost replacement vehicle.
"We now realise this program was flawed as it didn’t ensure an adequate assessment of customers’ rights under consumer law. It was discontinued in November 2016.
“We are committed to making right with these customers.”
The ruling means PowerShift-equipped Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport owners who asked for, but didn't receive a refund or no-cost replacement between May 1 2015 and November 1 2016 can have their case independently reviewed – and Ford has committed to compensating affected customers based on the results of that review.
That process starts in July this year, and will run for 12 months.
According to Ford, around 75,000 vehicles were sold with PowerShift transmissions in Australia. There were 10,500 complaints about the transmissions lodged between May 1 2015 and February 2016.
The company accepted 1600 vehicles as trade-ins, and took further payment from those customers for a new car, while a further 180 customers were offered employee pricing on a new car.
A class action lawsuit was filed against Ford in May 2016, alleging the transmission “slips, bucks, jerks, and harshly engages when driven”. In July of 2017, the company strongly refuted the idea it mis-handled customer complaints, before the ACCC announced its plans to sue.