New auto recall rules need to be proactively enforced

By Kirsten McMahon, Associate Editor

The federal government’s new powers to proactively issue motor vehicle recalls is a step in the right direction, Toronto critical injury lawyer Dale Orlando tells The Lawyer’s Daily.

The Strengthening Motor Vehicle Safety for Canadians Act, the article notes, “provides the federal transport minister with the power to order car companies to recall a vehicle to correct a defect, conduct tests and fix a new vehicle before it is sold.”

The legislation — which received royal assent on March 1 — also gives Transport Canada the power to impose fines to manufacturers of up to $200,000 per violation for any contraventions of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act as well as broader inspection authorities to investigate defects.

Orlando, a partner with McLeish Orlando LLP, tells the legal publication it’s important to have a government agency with the power to force companies “to do the right thing whether it’s in their financial interest or not.”

“Companies are using safety as a branding exercise, as a way of setting their vehicle apart from other vehicles. But what if it isn’t in their financial interest?” he says. “We’ve heard stories historically of companies making decisions based on an analysis of how much is it going to cost to make the safety improvement versus what is the potential negative implications for the brand.

“That analysis gets taken out of the picture when it’s an agency that only has the interests of the motoring public in mind and not the financial bottom line,” Orlando says.

Effectiveness of the legislation “depends on how it is enforced,” he says, but if the government is proactive in following up on consumer complaints, there is potential.

“Then you do have a unique ability to identify safety risks in advance and hold companies accountable not after the fact, the way personal injury lawyers do, but before the accident happens,” Orlando says. “Spend the money that it takes to make this vehicle safe, whether it’s positive for the bottom line or not.”

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