Ferguson Announces Consumer Protection Settlement over Unintended Acceleration
Olympia –Throughout 2009 and late 2010, the Toyota Motor Corporation issued recalls affecting nearly 6 million vehicles due to unintended acceleration caused by floor mat and “sticky” gas pedal issues.
Today Attorney General Bob Ferguson joined 29 other states in announcing a multi-million dollar settlement with Toyota and its related North American entities over allegations the company concealed safety issues related to unintended acceleration.
Toyota will pay $29 million to settle consumer protection claims and agreed to provide additional restitution and incentives to vehicle owners to promote compliance with unintended acceleration safety recalls.
The company will pay Washington roughly $1.5 million and provide a crash data retrieval system, which will be housed at the Washington State Patrol. Toyota will also refrain from advertising the safety of vehicles without sound engineering data to back such safety claims.
“Nothing can compensate drivers for the terror they must have felt as their vehicles lurched uncontrollably forward due to faulty acceleration pedals and floor mats,” Ferguson said. “But this settlement is an important step in holding the company accountable for the safety and security of their customers.”
In a complaint filed today along with the settlement agreement, the states allege Toyota engaged in unfair and deceptive practices for failing to disclose known safety defects impacting its accelerator pedals in a timely manner.
The investigating state Attorneys General—including Washington -- found that poor communication between Toyota’s “nerve center” in Japan and Toyota’s U.S. holdings were partially responsible for this failure. During settlement negotiations, the Attorneys General emphasized the importance of changing the corporate culture and corporate chain-of-command to improve Toyota’s responsiveness to regulatory agencies in the U.S.
As part of the settlement, Toyota agreed to improve the safety culture within the company’s U.S. operations. It also agreed to ensure that officials and officers of its U.S. operations have timely access to information and the authority to fully participate in all decisions affecting the safe operation of Toyota vehicles advertised and sold in the U.S.
The state Attorneys General believe the changes in Toyota’s corporate communications and chain-of-command will allow the company to move forward in a positive manner with improved responsiveness to safety concerns.
The settlement also:
- Prohibits Toyota from reselling a vehicle it reacquired with alleged safety defects without informing the purchaser about the alleged defect(s) and certifying that the reacquired vehicle has been fixed;
- Prohibits Toyota from misrepresenting the purpose of an inspection or repair when directing consumers to bring their vehicles to a dealer for inspection or repair; and
- Requires Toyota to exclude from its “Certified Used Vehicles” or “Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles” categories any vehicle acquired through Lemon Law proceedings or voluntarily repurchased by Toyota to ensure customer satisfaction.
The settlement specifies that the $1.5 million payment to Washington be used for restitution, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and other costs of investigation and litigation or future consumer protection enforcement solely at the discretion of the Attorney General.
The company also agrees to develop a reimbursement program for consumers to address reasonable out-of-pocket expenses not already compensated under the other actions such as the recent class action settlement in California. Consumers will have up to one year to request reimbursement for costs incurred such as taxi fares, rental car costs, towing and similar expenses.
Consumers should call the following numbers for more information:
- Toyota – 1-800-331-4331
- Lexus – 1-800-255-3987
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office led the investigation along with the Attorneys General from Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina and Washington.
The following states and US territory participated in today’s settlement: Alabama, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Contact: Janelle Guthrie, Communications Director, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, 360-586-0725