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Automobile recall rule reflects market reality
By Hua Hua (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-17 14:03

Chinese consumers received a big gift on Monday's World Consumers' Right Day: confirmation of a regulation on automobile recall, which will take effect on October 1.

Strong appeals from consumers for such a rule finally got a positive - and long overdue - response. It indicates the authorities' determination to safeguard public safety and marks a great step towards maturity for the country's auto industry.

The regulation stipulates that when cars in the market have manufacturing or design defects that might lead to safety or environmental problems, the manufacturer must report the problem, advance a recall application and provide the necessary repairs or renovations.

Though popular in North America and Europe, the recall system has been conspicuously absent in China, where automobile ownership has been growing dramatically. China has emerged as a bona fide auto production and consumption giant, with annual production expected to reach 5.5 million units this year.

According to Chinese Consumers' Association (CCA), the auto industry is one of the sectors with the highest number of consumer complaints.

Last year the CCA handled 5,651 complaints on quality, price and sales problems related to cars, with quality concerns accounting for almost half the total cases.

Figures from the Ministry of Public Security point to the cruel fact that quality defects often become fatal flaws. Last year mechanical failure resulted in the death of 4,527 people - an increase of 377, or 9.1 per cent, from 2002.

The legal vacuum, however, makes it difficult for consumers and victims to be properly compensated by manufacturers. Worse, problems fail to be ferreted out in time to prevent tragedies from being repeated.

This has seriously hurt the rights and interests of consumers, and constitutes a big threat to their assets and lives.

The implementation of the recall system will surely increase production costs for auto manufacturers, which explains their reluctance to adopt the system. Furthermore, they also worry that once their products are recalled, their image among consumers will be damaged.

With the promotion of a recall system and consumers having a deeper understanding of it, the worry of image damage should be unnecessary. On the contrary, a recall action illustrates manufacturers' strong sense of responsibility, which is sure to boost consumers' trust.

The recall system, in fact, is necessary not only for the auto industry, but many others as well. We hope the introduction of the system into the auto sector is a good start and will herald its implementation in many other fields.

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