The Federal Court of Australia has ordered Mercedes-Benz to pay a A$12.5 million ($8.49 million) fine for failing to communicate to customers the urgency in recalling its "potentially deadly" airbags, the country's competition regulator said.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement that the automaker admitted it had breached the country's consumer law by failing to clearly communicate with customers the urgency of the recall, as required by the Takata Recall Notice of the country's highway traffic safety body.
"We believe the statements made by Mercedes-Benz staff had the potential to give the impression to consumers that the airbag replacement was less urgent than was warranted by the real risks posed by the faulty airbags," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
In conversations with 27 consumers, Mercedes staff described the recall as a "precaution," or implied that the type of airbags used in Mercedes vehicles had not caused any accidents, injuries or accidents, when that was not accurate, the ACCC said.
The regulator calls the airbags - manufactured by Japan’s Takata - "a potentially deadly issue."
"It was vital for the safety of Australian drivers and passengers that manufacturers took the risks seriously, and clearly communicated the risks to consumers."
Mercedes did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.