MORE than 400,000 Ford owners may be eligible for compensation after they were charged fees for a service the car maker had told them was free.
In 2012, Ford Australia introduced a free roadside assistance service for customers who continued to have their vehicles serviced at the company’s dealerships. However, in July this year, the car maker realised that customers were being charged fees to use the service, despite telling customers it was a no-cost service.
“Ford Australia has identified through its review process, that from May 2012 to July 2017, it advertised roadside assistance as ‘free’ with standard scheduled servicing, when in most cases a small charge (up to $15.95 including GST) relating to roadside assistance was collected from customers,” it said. “This was due to a process error.”
It has started writing to customers to apologise for the error, and spell out how they can get a refund for any charges they got while using the roadside service.
“Ford is committed to honouring its promise of free roadside assistance with standard scheduled servicing to affected customers,” Ford Australia parts and service marketing and sales manager Ambrose Henderson said.
“We apologise to customers affected by this error and have launched a remediation program to refund customers the amount they were incorrectly charged.”
In the meantime, Ford has stopped advertising the program as “free”.
Many car brands use free roadside assistance programs to attract customers to their products. It is generally sold with new cars, while some, like Ford, use the service to encourage customers to have their vehicles maintained where they bought it.
Ford’s roadside assistance program covered vehicles for up to seven years, or 135,000km, whichever came first. According to an email sent to customers, compensation will be between $16 and $21 per service, and comes in the form of a digital voucher that can be used at “a variety of major retail outlets across Australia”.