Legal Q: At what detail have mfgs. to document the specs. of their product?

Some background first:

Somebody at another forum was really angry because the cabin filter in his brand new Hyundai was missing. He searched other Hyundai cars too, and the filter was missing from them as well.

That sounded strange, but somebody found the answer here:
Apparently, most Hyundai cars can take a cabin filter, but it is factory installed only in the more expensive models.

You might think that this was the end of it, but no! The Hyundai owner was now even more angry! He said that a car that has no cabin filter is unacceptable at this time and age, and that there was some kind of fraud. I told him that it would be a fraud only if a salesperson had told him that a cabin filter was installed while it wasn’t. In his case, nobody told him about a cabin filter; he only assumed its existence.

This didn’t make hin any less angry though! He told me: “What next? One wheel missing? No gearstick? All these things are implied too”

That got me thinking: At what extent do manufacturers have to document the product characteristics? Obviously, creating a list of every nut and bolt of a car is useless for 99.9% of car buyers. Service manuals have this kind of thorougness, but it is irrelevant for Joe Car Buyer. What is the legaly minimum information that a manufacturer has to make available to a buyer?

What the heck is a cabin filter?

It filters the air that passes through the Air Condition ducts. It is useful if you use the car in dirt roads or other dusty environments. It is good for alergies too, because it filters pollen.

Nobody? :frowning:



IANAL but I have been a consumer for most of my 47 years and have bought six new cars. Many, many manufacturers of all types of goods issue a disclaimer that the product is not warranted for a particular use. This is particularly prevelant in software, where there could be lots of bugs unknown even to the vendor. They are pushing the risk back to the customer. With cars, I know of no other product with as good a warranty as cars today. But if you buy a car and the trunk doesn’t have a lock, I don’t think (my opinion) the manufacturer is obligated to tell you that their design departs from the conventionally available features.

Manufacturers do not want to be in a position where you buy a Honda Accord and then complain because it bottomed out and the muffler came off when you drove through a construction site in a drunken stupor. Then again, Ford was successfully sued by someone rear-ended in a Pinto. Note that the driver who rear ended the car while leaning over to pick up a cigarette was not held liable.

That is not to say that you wouldn’t have a case to sue them after discovering this after the purchase, but that probably would be based more on case law than statute.

In the UK any risk caused by a product, even when the use is not as intended, but which is ‘reasonably forseeable’ must be flagged up with some kind of warning.

Often the warning is to simply leave things alone and get a competant person to, maintain, repair or adjust the item concerned.

Making a claim can be something of a minefield, the manufacturer will try to show that it could not reasonably have envisaged their product being used in the way that cuased damage or injury and part of its case will be to show it is diligent in discharging its duty of care duties to the injured party.

One way of doing this would be in the use of warning labels for other things and in the usage instructions and any user service manuals. Even if thses are not actually related to the injury it would help show that the manufacturer was taking its duties seriously.

Providing information in a user manual intended for the general public that would be beyond their expected comptetance might even make things worse, as incompetant persons might try to carry out maintenance and repair and thereby put themselves or others at risk.
The first thing the claiment has to do is to prove who had a duty of care and to whom.
The claimant would then try to prove deliberate and reckless or accidental negligence, or that a defect in the product caused the injury and that it was being used in accordance with manufacturers instructions and that the persons using the product were competant to do so.

Thanks guys, but what I had in mind was not product safety or manufacturer liability. Please forget about risks and accidents.

I’ll give some other examples: Car makers usually give technical information such as displacement, number of cylinders, number of valves, horsepower etc. Can they legaly choose not to release this information about their product? Should they give even more info? (such as number of crankshaft bearings, weight of con-rods, number and type of piston seal rings, etc.)

Don’t have a cite, but have been told that in the past when questioned Rolls-Royce said that the horsepower of their engine was “adequate”.

I don’t think any car manufacturer is legaly required to disclose any of the items you mentioned. They do it because market forces demand it. Floks want to make comparisons with similar products.

There probably isn’t a legal requirement to disclose any of the information you mention. Take your TV for example, how many ICs, circuit cards, and transformers does it contain? How many ICs are in your microwave oven?

The only US laws I’m aware of that might require some sort of basic disclosure about cars are environmental laws, which mandate gas mileage data. Other than that, there are state laws governing used car sales, but AFAIK these laws are pretty narrow - e.g. odometer reading, whether the car had been returned under a state “lemon law,” that sort of thing.

There are also common law and Uniform Commercial Code provisions that impose an “implied warranty of merchantability” on goods sold in commerce. That warranty is pretty basic, though, and I doubt they would cover something like an air filter. The EU might (shock of shocks!) have come up with something more stringent and less easily avoided, but I still doubt that it would require an air filter - a car will go just fine without one, even if the occupant mightn’t like it too much.

Of course, if your friend whinges loudly enough to Brussels, the EU might well start considering such a thing! But seriously, just remind him that when one assumes, one makes an Ass…etc.