Nissan Failed to Provide Adequate Notice to Consumers Regarding Xenon Headlamp Thefts and Security Kits
Attorney General Peter C. Harvey has filed suit, through the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, against Nissan North America, Inc., alleging the automobile manufacturer knew that headlights on 2002 and 2003 Nissan Maximas were being targeted by thieves but, for more than a year, did not warn consumers about the problem or notify owners and lessees of the cars about the availability of devices to prevent the thefts.
The suit, filed today in Superior Court in Somerset County by Attorney General Harvey and Consumer Affairs Director Reni Erdos, alleges that Nissan violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act in connection with its sale and leasing of 2002 and 2003 Maximas. At issue are the manufacturer’s High-Intensity Discharge bi-level xenon projector headlamps.
Xenon headlamps emit an intense blue light, which Nissan represents as being 150 percent as bright as traditional halogen bulbs and more like natural sunlight. The company has represented that the headlamps, which have an independent power supply, make the car more visible to other drivers.
Maxima owners who have had xenon headlamps stolen have paid about $1,800 for reinstallation of the headlamps – more in some instances, due to additional damage caused by the thieves.
Protecting New Jersey consumers is a top priority of my administration, said Governor James E. McGreevey. We’ve taken steps to strengthen consumer protection laws and to aggressively enforce existing laws. We’ll continue to fight to ensure that New Jersey residents get a fair and honest deal.
Nissan knew since at least September 2002 that thieves were targeting the xenon headlamps in Maximas, Attorney General Harvey said. However, it wasn’t until more than a year later that Nissan finally began notifying 2002 and 2003 Maxima owners of the risk of theft and the availability of anti-theft devices. Meanwhile, numerous victims were hit with huge repair bills. We’re seeking restitution for those consumers.
We allege the company sold cars with these fancy lights, but kept consumers in the dark about how attractive the headlamps were to thieves, Director Erdos said. Nissan’s actions, or lack thereof, rendered consumers vulnerable to the criminals who targeted their vehicles.
A survey of police reports from 19 municipalities over the past two years revealed 756 reports of thefts or attempted thefts of the xenon headlamps from 2002 and 2003 Maximas. The State’s complaint alleges that, since at least September 2002, Nissan knew that the xenon headlamps were being stolen.
The company, in fact, issued a bulletin to its service technicians stating that a replacement connector kit is available for xenon headlamp assembly connectors that need to be replaced ... because of damage that occurred due to headlamp assembly theft.
Two months later, the complaint alleges, Nissan issued another bulletin advising its service technicians that a xenon headlamp theft deterrent kit was available for installation in 2002 and 2003 Maximas. The bulletin stated that the Anti-Theft Kit was available if a customer requests and for customer pay only.
The kit, which cost consumers $175 for purchase and installation, included four tamper-resistant Torx bolts, a door key cylinder protector, a hood lock and a hood lock cable protector. The bulletin indicated that installation of the kit is not covered by the vehicle warranty. Nissan did not instruct its dealers to notify consumers about the kit, the complaint alleges.
In November 2003, more than one year after Nissan knew about the xenon headlamp theft problem, it sent a letter to approximately 46,000 Maxima owners in the Northeast region, warning them that the xenon headlamps were being targeted by thieves, particularly in some major metropolitan areas in New York and New Jersey. Nissan notified those consumers of a three-point program to reduce the chance of theft of xenon headlamps.
The program, Nissan represented, included securing devices for xenon headlamps, which dealers were instructed to install at no charge to customers. The securing devices, however, were different from Nissan’s Anti-Theft Kit. The securing devices included headlamp brackets, mounting nuts and securing tap screws and washers.
The State’s complaint alleges that Nissan engaged in unconscionable commercial practices and knowingly concealed, suppressed or omitted material facts to consumers in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act by, prior to November 2003, (1) failing to inform consumers purchasing 2002 and 2003 Maximas, as well as existing owners and lessees, of the risk of theft of the xenon headlamps, and (2) failing to inform owners and lessees of the cars of the availability of the Anti-Theft Kit.
The complaint further alleges that the company engaged in unconscionable commercial practices by, prior to November 2003, failing to instruct its authorized dealers or service departments to notify purchasers, owners and lessees of 2002 and 2003 Maximas of the availability of the Anti-Theft Kit, and by charging consumers for installation of the kit.
The State is seeking restitution for affected consumers and civil monetary penalties. Deputy Attorney General Lorraine K. Rak is handling the case for the State. Investigator Christopher Albanese of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection handled the investigation.
Seema Sahota contributes and publishes news editorial to http://www.discount-light-bulbs.com.
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