Australia sues Mercedes for downplaying Takata airbag risk

Aug 4 (Reuters) – Australia’s consumer watchdog filed a lawsuit against Mercedes-Benz on Wednesday, alleging the company downplayed the risks associated with the use of Takata airbags in its vehicles.

Defective airbags, which in rare cases lead to rupture of the inflator and send out potentially fatal metal fragments, resulted in the world’s largest automotive recall affecting 100 million vehicles.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said Mercedes call center staff told customers it was “okay” to use vehicles over six years old and that the recall was preventive because there were no major incidents.

By downplaying the risks, the watchdog said consumers were at risk of potentially serious injury or death.

“These alleged statements used language that did not comply with the requirements of the mandatory recall notice,” he said.

Voluntary recalls in Australia due to defective airbags began in 2009, but were made mandatory in 2018 for four million defective airbags identified for replacement after a car crash in Sydney that left one dead.

Germany’s Daimler AG (DAIGn.DE), the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, said its vehicles were not equipped with Takata “Alpha” airbags, identified as presenting a higher risk by the ACCC.

He said that with his vehicles fitted with ‘beta’ airbags, the ‘recall process overseen by the ACCC did not require that affected Mercedes-Benz vehicles be off the road or that owners stop driving them until. ‘that the repair be undertaken’.

The ACCC, however, said its recall notice included both Alpha and Beta airbags, citing the death in Sydney and a serious injury to a driver due to faulty Beta airbags.

Daimler said 97.7% of the affected airbags have been replaced to date and that it has cooperated with the ACCC as part of its investigation and made improvements to internal systems and call center operations to address concerns.

Reporting by Anushka Trivedi and Nikhil Nainan Kurian in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Indranil Sarkar; edited by Uttaresh.V and Arun Koyyur

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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