MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Car companies and dealers are pushing for a fair and reasonable "lemon law" even as they say a lot of work is needed to come up with one that balances the interests of motor vehicle companies and consumers.
Diamond Motor Corp. President George Blaylock told the Senate panel on trade and commerce, chaired by Sen. Manuel A. Roxas II, that a law that would penalize the sale of so-called "lemon cars" was in order.
"There is nothing in writing yet. The company should be given reasonable time to fix the defect. There has to be an independent body to determine that. We are comfortable with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)," Mr. Blaylock said.
Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) president Elizabeth Lee, on her part, said the lemon law should be consistent with global standards, adding that "it is in our interest to resolve the complaint as soon as possible."
In a position paper, the CAMPI backed the proposed lemon law, which is expected to add more teeth to the Consumer Protection Act.
"It is indeed laudable that the objective of the proposed law is to afford protection to the buyers of motor vehicles, but we must not overlook the fact that the sellers are also entitled to the mantle of equal protection of the law. Equity and due process demand no less," the group said.
The CAMPI noted that vehicle sellers should be protected against abusive customers who lodge complaint on "flimsy, capricious and untenable grounds." It added some buyers raise complaint of defects when the warranty period is about to expire or after extensive use of the vehicle.
"The industry would like to recommend that the proposed legislation should clearly define the methodology of resolving consumer complaints, identify the agency or authority with the mandate and primary jurisdiction, and designate the entity and its personnel, which will be mandated to resolve technical questions, must possess the capability and expertise to evaluate technical issues pertaining to motor vehicles," the CAMPI said.
Senate finance committee chairman Manuel B. Villar, Jr. and Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. have filed bills to protect car buyers. Mr. Villar filed Senate Bill (SB) 775 and Mr. Pimentel SB 1812 to enforce warranties on the sale of motor vehicles and impose penalties for violations.
The bills provide that within 18 months after the delivery of a vehicle, the consumer can report any nonconformity to the manufacturer and pursue repair, repurchase or full refund.
SB 775 proposes penalties ranging from P10,000 to P30,000 or imprisonment of two months to one year, upon the discretion of the court, to violators. SB 1812, meanwhile, proposes a minimum penalty of P100,000.
The DTI's consumer bureau has received a total of 116 complaints versus car firms from 2003 to 2004, with 77.5% concerning defects, 12% regarding deceptive sales practices, and 4% involving poor service quality.
Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. had the highest number of complaints with 24; followed by Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. with 18; Honda Cars Philippines, Inc. and Isuzu Philippines Corp. with 12 each; Nissan Motor Philippines Inc. with nine; Ford Motor Co. Philippines with seven; and Kia with five.