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Consumer Court Cancels Compensation To Customer for Not Fastening Seat Belt

honda city airbag non deployment

We have come across several instances where customers have taken car manufacturers and dealers to consumer court after facing issues with their vehicles. In most cases, the court rules out a judgment in favor of the customer. However, here we have a case where the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission recently set aside an order passed by the State Commission directing Honda to pay ₹1 lakh as compensation for non-deployment of airbags in the car at the time of the crash.

Consumer Court Cancels Compensation To Customer for Not Fastening Seat Belt
airbags

The commission bench, including Subhash Chandra and Sadhna Shanker, came to this conclusion after they found that the customer or the occupants in the car were not wearing seat belts, and that is why the airbags in the car failed to deploy. The car in question here was purchased by the customer from a Honda dealership named Kothari Auto Link Pvt. Ltd. in Pune, Maharashtra, for Rs. 13,20,003.

The car was later involved in an accident where the front of the car was severely damaged. The complainant, who filed the case, was in the car and suffered injuries along with a broken left arm and shoulder. It was after this accident that the customer filed a case against the manufacturer, stating that the car’s airbag did not deploy at the time of the crash and claimed it to be a manufacturing defect.

The state commission that looked into the matter initially found that there was no expert opinion supporting the appellant’s claim that wearing a seat belt was necessary for the airbags to deploy. Considering the forceful impact of the accident, the Commission ruled that the airbags should have deployed as a safety feature, for which the respondent had paid.

Consumer Court Cancels Compensation To Customer for Not Fastening Seat Belt
seat belt

The State Commission also found that Honda had recalled around 58,000 cars due to issues with airbags. After looking at the facts presented by the complainant, the commission awarded compensation of Rs. 1,00,000 and a litigation cost of Rs. 25,000. The customer also received an insurance claim of Rs. 1.60 lakh.

The state commission had ordered Honda to pay the compensation within 2 months’ time. Honda cars made an appeal to the NCDRC and argued that the respondent had not contended that the car suffered from a manufacturing defect and therefore the manufacturer cannot be held liable. The manufacturer also made a point that the customer had relied upon a brief opinion from the Western India Automobile Association, which did not constitute an expert opinion.

The commission opined that the report of the Western India Automobile Association cannot be relied upon as an ‘expert opinion’ for the reason that it is neither an ‘appropriate laboratory’ as defined in Section 2(1)(a) nor does it provide any assessment of the failure of the airbags to deploy with reference to the Manual and the accident in terms of the speed, direction, and location of the impact of the collision based on which a finding of whether the sensors should or should not have activated the airbags has been arrived at. In the absence of there being any technical or expert opinion as required under Section 13(1)(c), the finding of the State Commission of a defect in the car is not sustainable.

Consumer Court Cancels Compensation To Customer for Not Fastening Seat Belt
Airbags – representational image

The court also pointed out that relying solely on newspaper reports regarding the recall of cars with airbag issues is not sufficient as evidence. The complainant also failed to produce any evidence to prove that his car was from the same batch which had airbag issues. The manufacturer claimed that the car was involved in a non-frontal collision close to SRS sensors and therefore the airbags did not deploy.

There was also no extreme, offset collision with an oncoming vehicle or impact with a stationary obstacle resulting in sudden deceleration warranting deployment of the airbags as per the car’s Manual. After analyzing all the facts, the court decided to cancel the compensation ordered by the state commission.