Australian consumer watchdog investigates air bag recall

SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s consumer watchdog said on Monday it was urgently seeking information from the government regulator and car manufacturers after a magazine reported that recalled Takata air bags were being replaced by faulty air bags.

Australian consumer magazine Choice discovered car makers were refitting faulty Takata air bags in recalled vehicles as a temporary solution after questioning 14 car manufacturers in Australia.

Many confirmed that a percentage of the vehicles were refitted with like-for-like replacements and would need to be recalled again, Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said.

The Japanese-manufactured air bags have been linked to 18 deaths around the world by firing metal shards when deploying, including a man killed this month near Sydney.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the consumer watchdog, said some of the 2.3 million recalled cars in Australia had been fitted with Takata air bags treated with a water-absorbing chemical designed to address the problem. But these may also degrade and the air bags may need to be replaced in six months, the commission said in a statement.

“Car manufacturers and retailers must let consumers know when they are having their car’s air bag replaced what type of air bag it is being replaced with and if it’s likely to be the subject of another recall down the track,” the commission’s chairman Rod Sims said.

The commission was seeking information from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, which is responsible for automobile safety standards, what information manufacturers and retailers were required to give customers about their air bags.

Sims said he would consider recommending the government upgrade the current voluntary recall to a mandatory recall, if the manufacturers were not correcting the faults quickly enough. Around 36 per cent of the recalled cars in Australia covering 60 makes and models had been rectified, Sims said.

Takata’s headquarters in Tokyo issued a brief statement about the case, saying, “We pray for the victim and offer condolences to the family members. If the recall applies to a vehicle you own, please contact your dealer.”

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