Electric cars and consumer protection : Who bears responsibility?

(Photo: Volkswagen media)
AMMAN – It is expensive to buy cars in Jordan; after housing and education, a car is considered the third most important item in the budget of any Jordanian, and given the shortcomings of the public transport system, owning a car is a pressing need for anyone who can afford to.اضافة اعلان

Purchasing a car is usually done through or facilitated by a long-term bank loan. The options depend on the personal preference and the financial capability of the buyer; consumers are often swayed by the government car tax policies and the car market witnesses fluctuations due to the same reason. A prime example is the demand for hybrid cars, especially after the recent increase in the fees and taxes, which reached at the beginning of 2022 some 55 percent.

The number of cars registered during January 2022 shows a sharp decline in demand for hybrid cars; statistics from the free zone in Zarqa indicate that only 150 hybrid cars were registered, which represents about five or 20 percent of the sales of hybrid car sin the same month of last year, when 800 cars were registered. It also points to a clear reluctance of buyers to go for the hybrid option, favoring electric cars for which the government charges only 10-15 percent taxes.

Moving away from numbers and taxes, let us look at a vivid example of a Jordanian citizen who responded to the directions and decisions of the government regarding his options for buying cars.

“Mohammad”, a young Jordanian citizen who works as a photographer, owned a hybrid car until last year. After clocking around 100,000 km mileage, the car started needing costly maintenance, a transmission, replacing the lithium battery, so Mohammad decided to stop the bleeding costs and decided to sell the car and switch to the new attractive option, electric car, for which one only pays 10 percent in customs and taxes.

Like more than two-thirds of car buyers, Mohammad went to the free zone in Zarqa, because official new car dealers in Amman are, in his opinion, expensive, and there is no apparent difference between a car from the dealership and one from the free zone, which comes at a much lower price.

After a tour of the many free zone exhibition halls, Mohammad finally found what he was looking for: a 2019 model “semi-new” electric car. Based on the advice of friends, he took the car to be inspected at the most advanced inspection center at the free zone, to make sure that there was no problem with it. He bought an electric car that came from Asian country, bearing a global car brand, for JD5,000 less than that of its counterpart sold by the local official dealer. It was a smart and great deal at the time, but Mohammad today thinks otherwise and deeply regrets his decision.

One year after being in possession of his electric car, Mohammad learned through social media that the car manufacturer was recalling all cars of the same car model due to a battery defect that could lead to overheating and the risk of fire.

He got concerned and contacted an after-sale maintenance center of the brand official dealer in Amman for the first time since buying the car. They confirmed the global recall process and promised to check his car’s eligibility for a waiver of the cost of replacing the battery, which amounts to some JD10,000 (equivalent of half the value of the car). The official answer from the manufacturer was that his car was among those whose battery needed to be replaced, but the manufacturer did not agree to cover the cost of replacing the battery unless it is returned to Asian country where the warranty was valid.

Mohammad, and other consumers like him, have no one to turn to in the shape of a specialized department that protects consumer rights; he can only resort to the courts.

Even the used car dealer in Zarqa free zone who sold him the car does not have to bear any legal responsibility, as, according to the current laws and regulations governing car buying and selling, once the buyer agrees to have the car customs declaration registered to his name, he practically becomes the importer and waives any responsibility of the real seller, unless there is a legal contract.

As for the local official car dealer, despite the cooperation shown as a representative of the brand, he does not bear any real responsibility, since the car was not imported by it and its specifications are different, made for the Asian market, not for Jordan.

Mohammad, unwilling to pay for a new battery, reluctantly decided to sell his car at a loss.

Like Moammad, dozens or hundreds of buyers of electric cars from the free zone take the risk of buying them, attracted by the price and specs, and willingly disregard the risks associated with the lack of manufacturer warranty.

“Money smart” but short-sighted car buyers are on their own in case of a situation like that experienced by Mohammed. So what is the solution? And who bears the responsibility for this unregulated car market?

Serious problems related to the road safety of these technologically advanced cars are bound to occur, as well as huge financial losses to people who dance to the government’s tune and buy what the car tax policy gives preference, which currently is electric cars.

Without a clear government vision and regulations to organize and control the car market chaos, the question remains, whose ultimate responsibility is it in cases like the above?

Read more Drive