Disgruntled car owner Teg Sethi has fired back at an attempt to silence his efforts to get a refund for his $60,000 ‘lemon’ Jeep Grand Cherokee.
In an open letter to parent company Fiat Chrysler Australia, the 32-year-old businessman resoundingly – and poetically – rejected the company’s offer for a full refund, as it also came with the condition he kept his mouth shut.
“I was born to fight, stand up for my rights, this is what my family adore.”
Problems with the 4WD included burning smells in the car, steering that constantly drifted to the left and the loss of power.
In early November, he wrote and starred in a YouTube film clip denouncing the company’s handling of numerous complaints he had lodged on his ‘lemon’ Jeep.
The catchy car-themed and complaint-riddled parody of Redfoo’s New Thang gathered 2.1 million views in the past month and prompted FCA to come back with the offer of a partial refund.
The most recent offer was a full refund of the cost of the car, in return for Mr Sethi’s silence.
The gag order also indemnified the rest of Mr Sethi’s family and any associates, which include a group working to install lemon laws in Australia.
Although he wanted to resolve the matter with the company, he said he did not want to be ‘gagged’ or ‘bullied’ in the process.
“That’s how they keep people under wraps,” he told The New Daily.
“I can’t sign that offer for a few reasons. [Under the terms] I can’t help anyone else… the last thing I can do is take that money and run and leave everyone else who has contacted me for help.”
Under Australian law, consumers are entitled to ask for a refund, repair or replacement of goods or services under certain circumstances.
In minor instances, the business can choose to repair the product rather than refund or replace, while major problems entitle the consumer to decide the remedy.
Refund calls spark investigation
Mr Sethi was not the only consumer to list numerous difficulties with a Jeep.
One vehicle owner was so put out by his four-year struggle for compensation he actually crowd-funded its destruction.
Ashton and Vanessa Wood bought a brand new $49,000 Jeep Cherokee in 2010 that was “riddled with problems from day one”.
This ranged from failure of the climate control system to a faulty seat belt, ignition failure and even a major coolant leak that required a tow truck.
They created the ‘Destroy My Jeep’ campaign after they had spent years trying to work with FCA, which included two formal mediations and three offers to the company to reach a resolution.
Following an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation, in September FCA agreed to develop a consumer redress program to deal with complaints about its vehicles.
It also extended to other brands the company distributes in Australia, including Jeep, Alfa Romeo, Fiat and Chrysler.
Under the program, consumers who complained between January 2013 and December 2014 were entitled to an independent review.
Although Mr Sethi was yet to reach an outcome, he said the battle – and maybe even the singing – was not over.
“For me it is an ethical battle now,” he said.
The New Daily made attempts to reach FCA, but representatives could not be contacted in time for comment.