The lengthy legal battle Honda has faced over fuel economy ratings for its Civic hybrid is about to take an interesting twist. Heather Peters, who owns a 2006 Honda Civic hybrid and is unhappy with the result of the class-action lawsuit, is taking Honda to small claims court today.
Peters bought her hybrid allegedly because of the claimed 50 mpg. Her vehicle, however, has been achieving around 30 mpg due to a faulty battery affecting model year 2006 to 2008 Civic hybrids. According to the Los Angeles Times, the battery deteriorates more quickly than normal, and is unable to be charged to full capacity, which in turn leads to increased reliance on the gasoline engine. A class action suit was filed and settled but Peters was unhappy with the outcome. The Times reports that the settlement includes an $8.5 million payout for the trial lawyers. Original and subsequent owners of 2003 through 2009 Civic hybrids would get “$100 in cash, and then either a $500 transferable rebate that they could sell or a $1,000 non-transferable rebate on a new Honda or Acura.” Additionally, owners of 2006 to 2008 model year Civic Hybrids get an extra $100 cash and another $500 rebate for use or for sale.
But Peters wants more. Today, she’s going to small claims court in Torrance, California and she is fighting for the $10,000 maximum to make up for the added fuel costs. And thanks to California law, Honda isn’t allowed to spend a single cent on legal help, which means Peter won’t be fighting against any of the automaker’s attorneys. She’s also encouraging other owners to follow her lead. She has documented the ordeal on her website and Twitter accounts.
“I want [owners] to know they can file in Small Claims Court and that it is not so scary,” Peters said. “I am just trying to give people a tool kit that shows they have options besides capitulating for $100 or going out and hiring an expensive attorney,” Peters said.
The Times reports that “claimants have until Feb. 11 to choose whether to take the proposed settlement or file their own small-claims actions as Peters has done.”
If successful, Peters case could be the start of mass filings, where the Internet and social media will play a big part in empowering owners to fight together in an alternative route outside of the typical class action lawsuit.
“Governments are cutting back on everything, including consumer protection. The Small Claims Court is the forum of last resort for the everyday person,” said Nicholas Aquino, Small Claims Court advisory program manager for the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs. “It gives a consumer an opportunity to have an issue addressed in court.”
Last month, Hyundai faced a similar fuel economy issue with the Elantra compact sedan. Following a number of customer complaints about the inability to achieve the Elantra’s claimed 29/40 mpg city/highway figures, Consumer Watchdog, a consumer advocacy group, has called for an investigation into claimed mileage. Hyundai points out that real-world driving ratings usually differ from EPA ratings due to driving conditions, traffic, and weather. With ever fluctuating gas prices, it comes as no surprise that consumers are increasingly sensitive to their vehicles fuel economy.
Source: The Los Angeles Times