By Kesinee Taengkieo
THE NATION WEEKEND
FORD THAILAND was ordered on Friday to pay compensation amounting to Bt23 million to buyers of two of its models that were found to have defective clutch and gear systems.
The verdict was described as a “victory for consumers” by a lawyer representing the car buyers in this “historic case”.
The lawsuit was filed against Ford Sales and Services (Thailand) Co Ltd by 308 buyers of Ford Fiesta, Ford Focus and Ford EcoSport models who had demanded compensation totalling Bt24.7 million.
The case was taken to the South Bangkok Civil Court on April 3, 2017 and the court accepted the case for review in May this year.
The lawsuit alleged that the company sold Ford cars that were defective in the manufacturing process. It said the quality of the company’s products was not in accordance with its advertisements and therefore put the consumers at risk.
All 308 co-plaintiffs and their lawyers were present for the reading of the verdict. The court said Ford manufactured about 90,000 versions of the three models a year but the company found only 500 vehicles with the defect and so far no one hds been injured or killed because of the problem.
Although Ford admitted that the cars involved had defective clutch and gear systems, they said they could be fixed and the parts could be changed so the three models were not regarded as dangerous substandard goods.
As a result, the court had no power to force the company to buy the cars back from their purchasers or recall models that were already in the market. The company, however, was ordered to compensate the buyers of the defective cars for the loss of market value, Bt20,000 for each repair and Bt1,000 per day for the loss of use of their vehicle during its repair.
The 296 plaintiffs will receive compensation varying from Bt15,000 to Bt240,000 for a total amount of Bt23 million, plus interest at the rate of 7.5 per annum from the lawsuit date. The court ordered Ford to pay the compensation within seven days. The court also rejected suits filed by 12 buyers, as six of them modified the cars to use LPG gas and the others had failed to send their cars for regular maintenance servicing.
Jinna Yaem-uam, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the verdict was a victory for consumers and showed that if they joined forces, they could fight and win against a giant conglomerate.
The lawyer said the case would set a precedent that consumers big companies could not take advantage of consumers. “This is a historic case because [the company] was sued based on the amendment to the Civil Code on May 25, 2015 on class action lawsuits,” he said.
Jinna said that the court did not order a recall of the defective vehicles because they were not considered “unsafe goods” in an applicable law.
“Regarding this point, we reserve the right to appeal,” the lawyer added.
Korpsak Noomnoi, a representative of the plaintiffs, said they had achieved their goal and were partly satisfied. However, Korpsak said the plaintiffs would also consider appealing part of the verdict and had 30 days to consider doing so.
Originally, there were 416 co-plaintiffs in the case against the company. However, 113 of them later managed to reach an out-of-court settlement following negotiations mediated by the South Bangkok Civil Court.
The company agreed to remedial conditions asked by the buyers, who later opted not to pursue their case.
Ford’s statement to media
“We respect the Court’s ruling which, in effect, recognises each customer on a case-by-case basis, while also presenting that the PowerShift transmission does not pose any risk to vehicle safety.
“This ruling reflects our position that each customer has a different experience with respect to the PowerShift transmission, and that our process of individually evaluating customers on a case-by-case basis is appropriate.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused by issues related to the PowerShift transmission and remain committed to helping resolve any outstanding issues through our comprehensive customer satisfaction programmes.”