A legal battle between a Mitsubishi Triton owner – who claimed his ute used more fuel than advertised – and the vehicle’s maker has concluded, with the High Court finding in favour of the Japanese automotive brand.
Mitsubishi has been cleared of misleading and deceptive conduct by the High Court of Australia, after overturning a ruling from a Victorian court regarding a Triton ute owner who claimed his vehicle used more fuel than advertised.
In 2017, Victorian resident Zelko Begovic purchased a 2016 Model Year Mitsubishi Triton to replace his 2008 model.
Despite the newer Triton’s fuel consumption label showing it was more efficient than his previous ute in a laboratory test, Mr Begovic took legal action alleging the 2016 Mitsubishi used more fuel in the real world than his previous vehicle.
In June 2019, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled against Mitsubishi and in favour of Mr Begovic, who had kept a log of his fuel use over an extended period – and displayed the newer Triton used significantly more fuel than the official rating label.
Later tests conducted by a Mitsubishi technician and an independent fuel economy expert could not replicate the estimated figures on the official rating label.
While Mitsubishi attempted to appeal the VCAT decision, the Supreme Court of Victoria upheld the ruling in May 2021 – calling the fuel economy label’s data “misleading and deceptive” with regards to Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Mitsubishi later announced it would appeal the ruling in the High Court of Australia, which led to hearings from February to August 2023.
Today, the High Court overturned the Supreme Court of Victoria’s ruling, finding Mitsubishi had complied with the laboratory fuel consumption testing standards of Australian Design Rule (ADR) 81/02 and Motor Vehicle Standards Act 1989 – the latter of which requires the ADR test results to be displayed on a rating label.
Although the Mitsubishi Triton purchased by Mr Begovic consumed more fuel than what was advertised on its fuel rating label, the High Court ruled Mitsubishi did not break the law regarding how the vehicle was officially tested – meaning it did not breach ACL section 18 despite the real-world results.
“In circumstances where the appellants were bound, respectively, to apply and to maintain the fuel consumption label on the respondent’s vehicle, a label the form and content of which were dictated by ADR 81/02, the appellants did not, by that conduct, breach section 18 of the ACL,” the High Court’s ruling reads.
The decision has been welcomed by peak bodies for Australia’s car industry, with the Australian Automotive Dealer Association (AADA) calling it a “victory for common sense”.
“This decision is excellent news for Australia’s more than 3,000 franchised new car dealers and will bring certainty to the process of selling new cars in Australia,” said AADA CEO James Voortman in a media statement.
“Federal regulations require all new vehicles to be affixed with a fuel consumption label listing the results from a government-specified laboratory test,” AADA CEO James Voortman said in a media statement.
“The High Court has found that by complying with the letter of the law Dealers and manufacturers are not in breach of Australian Consumer Law.
“This is a victory for common sense which will allow Australian Dealers and manufacturers to continue to service the needs of their customers without fear of inadvertently breaching the law.”
Drive has contacted Mitsubishi for comment on the High Court ruling.
The ruling will also likely end any chance of success for a class action against Mitsubishi regarding the Triton’s fuel consumption discrepancies, said to have affected approximately 70,000 examples of the ute sold in Australia between 2016 and 2018.
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