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What are your responsibilities during a car recall?

5 min read
12 Mar 2019
car parked off side of the road along coastline

2018 saw a lot of car recalls across multiple brands in Australia, as well as the nation’s largest-ever recall on the faulty Takata airbags.[1] 2.9 million faulty airbags needed replacing in Australia[2] and while some manufacturers had voluntarily begun recalls in 2017, The Australian Government made the recall compulsory in February 2018, with a due date for all replacements to be carried out by the 31st of December 2020.[3]

Australia has had 2,544 recalls on cars since 1986, but 2018 was the year that saw the most car recalls with 214 vehicles affected.[4] These car recalls are due to a variety of defects, particularly with modern vehicles having elaborate digital components and software.

Vehicle recalls occur if there is an issue identified with multiple cars, or their parts do not meet Australian regulatory standards, or if the vehicle poses a risk to those driving.[5]

Recalls can happen to a car of any age. If your car is affected, you will need to take it to a dealership to be repaired. Having a recall issue fixed won’t cost you any money as the manufacturer and dealer are obliged to fix the problem.[6]

In 2018, roughly a million new cars and vehicles were sold.[7] The top ten most recalled car brands for 2018 were:

Brand of carNumber of recalls
Source: Product Safety Australia, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 2019.

What to do if your car is recalled

If your car is recalled, the manufacturer will try and notify you, though you may not receive a notice yourself. This may be because you have bought the car second-hand or the manufacturer or car dealership don’t have up-to-date contact details for you.[8]

All recalls in Australia, including motor vehicles, appliances, toys, tools, food, clothing and more, are listed on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s Product Safety Australia website.

In some cases, like the Takata airbags recall, the Government and media will publicise it to spread awareness.[9] You can also check through the manufacturer of your car on their website or by contacting a dealer, though you might need to provide your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).[10]

So, what happens if you don’t act on the recall?

Most states (except for Victoria and New South Wales) have banned cars equipped with the Takata Alpha airbags from renewing their registration.[11] For example, South Australia’s Registrar began sending notices to car owners, requiring the owner to provide evidence within a set timeframe they were having the airbag replaced, otherwise the owner would not be able to renew their registration until the car was fixed.[12]

But that’s not the only thing that might happen if you don’t act on a car recall.

Voiding your car insurance through inaction

If you don’t act on a recall, you put yourself and others at serious risk should an incident occur because you didn’t take your car to get fixed. If you do not get your car repaired and are involved in an accident that was caused by the issue of the recall, you might not be able to claim on your car insurance.

Cars and trucks drive along the highway

This is because many car insurance policies have specific clauses excluding cover if you don’t take reasonable precautions to maintain the safety of your vehicle.[13] Not all recalls will make your car un-roadworthy,[14] but if you allow your car to become un-roadworthy by failing to maintain it, your car insurer could refuse any payment on a claim depending on the wording of your policy.[15] It’s not the recall itself that voids your car insurance in this situation, but a failure to take reasonable actions to address the issue.[16]

If you receive a notice that your car is under recall from your dealer or manufacturer, contact your local dealership to make a booking to get the issue fixed. If your vehicle cannot be repaired or replaced, your dealer or the manufacturer should offer you a refund.[17] If you are unsure, it’s best to check the Product Safety Australia website recalls page.

Be sure to read up on your car insurance policy when it comes to maintaining your vehicle and what situations will exclude you from being able to make a claim. For more information on car insurance, you can visit our extensive FAQs page to learn more.

[1] 3000 Takata airbags a day replaced in Australian cars. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2018.
[2] Almost two million deadly Takata airbags still in Australian cars. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2018.
[3] Compulsory recall of vehicles fitted with defective Takata airbags. The Hon Michael Sukkar, The Treasury, Australian Government. 2018.
[4] Browse all recalls – Cars. Product Safety Australia, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2019.
[5] Vehicle Recalls. Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities, Australian Government. 2018.
[6] What is a Recall? Rachel White, AutoGuru. 2017.
[7] Australia New Vehicle Sales. Trading Economics. 2018.
[8] Consumer Product Safety Recall Guidelines: What a supplier should do when conducting a product safety recall. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2015.
[9] About the compulsory Takata airbag recall. Product Safety Australia, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2018.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Takata: Car Companies Call for Rego Ban On 1.3 Million Vehicles With Faulty Airbags. Joshua Dowling, Car Advice. 2018.
[12] Cars with defective Takata ‘Alpha’ type airbag inflators to be refused registration in South Australia from 1 November 2018. Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, Government of South Australia. 2018.
[13] Motor Vehicle Insurance Policy: Product Disclosure Statement. RACQ. 2017.
[14] FAQ for Takata airbag recalls. Product Safety Australia, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2018.
[15] Car Insurance FAQs. Compare the Market. 2019.
[16] FAQ for Takata airbag recalls. Product Safety Australia, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2018.
[17] Consumer Product Safety Recall Guidelines: What a supplier should do when conducting a product safety recall. Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. 2015.

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Written by James McCay

James is a devoted husband, father, and history buff. He studied Creative and Professional Writing at QUT, and is often buried in a book. He writes on a variety of topics, hoping to make a positive difference for readers through his writing.

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