Can claims be made for safety recall rectification?

A reader's Honda Vezel was among those affected by a safety recall. He said he received the recall notification on Dec 16 last year. But till now, "our car dealer refused to replace the part for free". He added that the "only option" was to replace the part at his own cost and file a claim through the Small Claims Tribunals. He wrote in to askST to find out what the chances are of getting his money back.

Senior Transport Correspondent Christopher Tan replies.

Vehicle importers and dealers are required by law to attend to all safety recalls. It is, however, unclear if there are laws requiring them to do it for free.

As far as we know, car manufacturers bear all cost associated with a recall, including labour charges. So, a dealer which demands payment for a recall rectification is trying to pull a fast one.

Honda Vezels are sold by parallel importers - dealers which do not get their vehicles directly from the manufacturer but through other dealers in countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom.

Buying from a parallel importer is always riskier than buying from an authorised agent. This recall issue is one of those risks.

Authorised agents are not obliged to attend to recalls affecting parallel imported cars. Honda agent Kah Motor, for instance, is not required by Honda Motor to do so.

Honda Vezels are sold by parallel importers and authorised agents are not obliged to attend to recalls affecting parallel imported cars.
Honda Vezels are sold by parallel importers and authorised agents are not obliged to attend to recalls affecting parallel imported cars. PHOTO: HONDA

But Toyota agent Borneo Motors said it will rectify safety-related recalls affecting parallel imported cars. This is because Toyota Motor, the manufacturer, underwrites all the cost associated with such rectifications.

So, before getting the problem rectified and then filing a claim with the Small Claims Tribunals, you should review your sales and purchase agreement to see what it says about recalls.

If you had signed an agreement which says safety recall rectifications are not free of charge, then you would not have a case.

Also, for your next car, you should consider buying from an authorised agent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'Can claims be made for safety recall rectification?'. Print Edition | Subscribe