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Car complaints highlight proper ways to report problems

Car complaints highlight proper ways to report problems

Credit: AP

In this June 5, 2009 file photo, a Toyota Motor Corp. worker gives the final examination on an newly assembled Prius at Toyota Tsutsumi Plant in Toyota, central Japan. The Japanese government said Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 it has received 14 complaints in Japan about brake problems with the popular hybrid. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)


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Posted on February 4, 2010 at 9:22 AM

Updated Thursday, Feb 4 at 10:57 AM

Toyota now admits some Prius models have a brake problem. And today the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced it is investigating after receiving 124 complaints, including four crashes.

Here is the statement on Toyota’s web site:

In certain 2010 model year Prius vehicles, Toyota has received reports that some customers have experienced inconsistent brake feel when the vehicle is driven over potholes, bumps or slippery road surfaces.

Toyota is currently in the process of confirming these reports and investigating the vehicle driving conditions under which the reported phenomenon occurs. It would be premature to comment until the investigation has been completed.

According to the Associated Press, “Prius models sold since late last month, including those shipped overseas, had the problem with the antilock brake system corrected.

But that still leaves the potential flaw in Priuses sold in Japan and overseas before late January. And while Japan's transport minister urged Toyota to consider a recall of the Prius and said he is ordering an investigation into the brake problem, Toyota executive Hiroyuki Yokoyama said the company hasn't yet decided if a recall is necessary.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps track of complaints from consumers on its web site. You'll find millions of them for various makes and models of cars, which don't always lead to recalls. Here are some of the complaints from the NHTSA web site about the Prius brake issues.

All of this may make you wonder what it takes to issue a recall? Whether it’s a car problem, a toy or an everyday product, most government agencies I’ve dealt with over the years can’t give you a hard fast rule on this. Clearly if there is a proven risk of death the government can and will force a recall. However it can sometimes take years.

From a company’s perspective, issuing a recall is expensive. Marketing experts I’ve spoken with say if a company feels it can deal with customer complaints and/or lawsuits more cheaply and without a big safety risk it may try to avoid issuing a recall.

How to file a complaint

By law companies are supposed to report problems to the government when customers complain to the companies. However, it is equally important that if you have a problem you also report that to the government agencies that oversee those companies.

So here is a list of links to agencies where you can report defects or dangerous problems:

For car safety issues including tires and child safety seats file a report with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

To report unsafe products like toys or household items contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

If you have a problem with a food, drug or beauty product--contact the Food and Drug Administration.

Upset about a business practice you need to contact the Federal Trade Commission.

Here’s a great list of other agencies that oversee products or services you may need to complain about.

Check for car complaints

You can also check to see if the make and model of your car or your child’s car seat has had any complaints here.

And this one site will link you to all of the agencies responsible for issuing recalls for a variety of products.