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SC says sellers liable for products that cannot be fixed during warranty

Consumer Act’s two-year prescription period starts after the warranty expires

Yes, the dealership can be held liable when it sells you a faulty vehicle. PHOTO FROM MAZDA

We’ve heard of horror stories about owners not being compensated fairly for having defective vehicles. The justice system in the country doesn’t really have the teeth to make sellers of these vehicles liable. But it doesn’t always end in tears for consumers as one Mazda 6 owner happily found out.

Back in January 2011, Alexander Caruncho purchased a Mazda 6 from Mazda Quezon Avenue. A week later, he noticed knocking and rattling noises coming from the undercarriage. This prompted him to return to the dealership and request for a refund. This was denied, and the service department promised him that the components would be replaced under warranty.

This defect continued to persist over the vehicle’s three-year warranty period. The rack-and-pinion assembly was replaced a total of five times. In February 2014, Mazda service personnel confirmed that the fixes didn’t rectify the problem, prompting Caruncho to demand a refund.

Apparently rejected by the dealer, he filed a complaint with the Department of Trade and Industry. The Mazda dealership countered by saying that the customer was able to use the vehicle for three years, clocking 30,000km in the process. It even added that a replacement unit was not covered in its maintenance and warranty provisions.

Mazda Quezon Avenue appealed to the DTI and the Court of Appeals. This was dismissed on both occasions, on the basis of the rack-and-pinion assembly being an integral part of the vehicle and therefore vital to its safe operation. But the dealer was adamant that it should not be held liable as the complaint was filed after the warranty period.

But the CA’s interpretation of the Consumer Act was that the two-year prescription period becomes effective after the product warranty expires, giving the customer another two years to file a complaint. And to add to Mazda Quezon Avenue’s woes, the Supreme Court recently released a decision reaffirming the ruling of the DTI and the CA to replace Caruncho’s vehicle with a brand-new unit.

Let’s see if the complainant does indeed get a replacement vehicle.

Miggi Solidum

Miggi is an editor-at-large at VISOR. Professionally speaking, he is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He writes the 'G-Force' column.