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Beware of false fuel-efficiency claims

delhi Updated: Mar 03, 2013 00:58 IST
Pushpa Girimaji
Pushpa Girimaji
Hindustan Times
fuel-efficient vehicle

Looking for that fuel-efficient vehicle which will keep your gas bills down? I would suggest you tread cautiously while comparing the fuel efficiency of different vehicles as there could be quite a bit of an exaggeration in some of those claims.

In fact, I would suggest a very close scrutiny of advertisements and promotional literature as the real picture could well be hidden in the small print tucked away somewhere or camouflaged in technical jargon.

Here are some indicators from the orders of the apex consumer court: In Bajaj Auto Ltd Vs Pankaj Kumar (IV 2006 CPJ 267 NC), the advertisements had claimed that the motorcycle gave a mileage of 87 KMPL, but the complainant, who purchased it in 2001, found that it gave only 65 KMPL. Here, the consumer court dismissed the argument of the manufacturer that the mileage claim was always based on ideal conditions. The court held the manufacturer guilty of unfair trade practice for having misguided the consumer about the mileage. It directed that the advertisement be stopped forthwith and awarded a compensation of Rs 10,000 to the consumer.

In MR. Ramesh VS M/S Prakash Moped House and Others (RP No 831 of 2001) too, the complaint was about a motorcycle bought in 1993 giving 22 km less than the promised 80 km per litre of petrol.

Here again, the National Consumer Commission dismissed the manufacturer’s contention that the advertisement carried an asterisk on the numerical figure of 80 and qualified the claim at the foot of the advertisement in small print, saying “at 40 kmph/130 kg”. Observing that advertisements that use fine print to hide crucial information were deceptive, the national commission awarded a compensation of Rs 25,000 to the consumer.

Consumer courts can certainly redress complaints of such misleading claims, but we need to have measures in place to prevent such exaggerated claims and promote truly fuel-efficient vehicles.

Here are a few examples of what is being done in other countries:
In the United Kingdom, for example, the Passenger Car (Fuel Consumption and CO2 Emissions Information) Regulations 2001 and the amended Regulations 2004 and 2013 mandates that all promotional material pertaining to the vehicle should provide the car’s fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions taken from official tests. Also, they should be in a format that is easy to read, easily understandable and as prominent as the rest of the information. It is also mandatory to give similar information at the point of sale.

In the US, all automobile manufacturers are supposed to follow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) procedures to do their own mileage tests and the EPA enforces accuracy by auditing 15 per cent of the vehicles annually. It also investigates into consumer complaints and one such audit conducted recently showed that car makers Hyundai and Kia had overstated the gas mileage in respect of 13 models, affecting 1.1 million vehicles sold in North America. Even as investigations continue, the car manufacturers are finalising a compensation package with the owners of the vehicles.

When will we see such days here?
Manas Chaturvedi: Can one seek compensation if the vehicle does not give the kilometer per litre of petrol promised by the manufacturer/dealer? If so, whom should one approach?

Making a false claim about the fuel efficiency of a vehicle constitutes an unfair trade practice and you can claim damages from both the manufacturer and the dealer by filing a complaint before the consumer court. Your complaint will have to show, through advertisements and brochures issued by the manufacturer/dealer, the fuel consumption claims made by them. You will also have to get an expert to certify to the mileage that your vehicle is giving.