(Reuters) - Australia's consumer watchdog said on Wednesday it has started court proceedings against Ford Motor Co's local unit, accusing the company of engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct when responding to customer complaints.
Ford refused to provide a refund or replacement vehicle to customers reporting transmission problems that included excessive shuddering, loss of gear selection and sudden loss of power, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement.
The complaints concerned three vehicles - the Focus, Fiesta and EcoSport, it said, adding that it was seeking court-imposed financial penalties and redress for customers.
Ford Australia said in a statement that it rejected the allegations and would be challenging the ACCC's claims, adding that it provides refunds and replacements in accordance with consumer law.
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"As each of these issues has been identified, the Ford team has investigated and worked with customers to implement manufacturing and repair solutions," Ford Australia said.
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said Ford told affected customers the transmission issues were caused by the way drivers handled the vehicle, even though the company was aware of systemic issues dating back to at least 2013.
Sims said Ford's conduct was unconscionable and that it sold surrendered vehicles to wholesalers and customers without disclosing the performance issues.
(Reporting by Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; Editing by Jonathan Barrett and Edwina Gibbs)