NEW: RI Stands to Gain From $29M Toyota Settlement
Thursday, February 14, 2013
According to Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, the Ocean State is one of 29 states to settle with the car company following allegations that Toyota hid safety issues related to its vehicles and their unintentional acceleration issues.
As part of the agreement, Toyota agreed to pay $29 million to the states to settle consumer protection claims and has agreed to provide additional restitution and incentives to vehicle owners to “promote compliance with unintended acceleration safety recalls.”
In addition, Toyota will be restricted from advertising the safety of their vehicles without “sound engineering data” to back such safety claims.
“Companies that continue to put profits ahead of consumer safety will be held accountable,” Kilmartin said. “Consumers are faced with many choices when purchasing a vehicle, and safety features are one of the most important aspects to consider. This settlement puts auto manufacturers on notice: customers need to be able to trust that the safety information provided by car manufacturers is accurate and truthful.”
As part of their complaint, the 29 states involved in the suit alleged that Toyota failed to timely disclose the known safety defects of their accelerator pedals and, that by doing so, the company engaged in unfair and deceptive practices.
Because their investigation concluded part of the problem was a lack of communication between Toyota headquarters in Japan and the company’s United States branches, the prosecuting Attorney Generals from the states in the suit put an emphasis on “ensuring changes in the corporate culture and corporate chain” of the company during settlement negotiations.
“As a result, Toyota has agreed to significantly change the safety culture within the company’s United States operations,” Kilmartin’s office said in a statement. “The State Attorneys General believe that the agreed changes in
Toyota’s corporate communications and safety decision-making chain of command will allow the company to move forward in a positive manner with improved responsiveness to safety concerns. “
As part of the settlement, Toyota will be prohibited from reselling any vehicles it has reacquired with the alleged defects without informing potential buyers of the vehicle of the issue and certifying that it has been fixed.
The company will also be prevented from “misrepresenting the purpose of an inspection or repair when directing consumers to bring their vehicles to a dealer for inspection or repair”.
Lastly, Toyota will not be allowed to include any vehicle acquired through lemon law proceedings or voluntarily repurchased by the company to ensure customer satisfaction as part of its “Toyota Certified Used Vehicles” or “Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles” categories.
Customers affected by the settlement can contact Toyota at 1-800-331-4331 and Lexus at 1-800-255-3987.