Tennessee today joined 29 other states in announcing a $29 million agreement with Toyota Motor Corporation and its related North America entities over allegations Toyota concealed safety issues related to unintended acceleration. The agreement was filed today in Knox County Chancery Court and is pending Court approval.
Tennessee will receive approximately $700,000 as part of the agreement to resolve consumer protection claims. The agreement was filed in conjunction with the Consumer Affairs Division of the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI). Toyota has also agreed to provide improved communication with consumers if other potential safety concerns arise. Specifically, Toyota will be restricted from advertising the safety of vehicles without sound engineering data to back such safety claims.
"We hope that this agreement will benefit consumers through Toyota's commitment to improve internal communications and timely public notifications regarding any future safety concerns with the company's products," Attorney General Cooper said.
In a complaint filed today along with the agreement, the states alleged Toyota engaged in unfair and deceptive practices when it failed to timely disclose known safety defects with accelerator pedals. The investigating state attorneys general determined poor communication between Toyota's nerve center in Japan and Toyota's United States holdings was partially responsible for Toyota's failure to timely report known safety issues. The agreement emphasizes changes in the corporate culture and corporate chain of command to enhance Toyota's responsiveness to regulatory agencies in the United States.
In addition, the agreement provides that Toyota is:
*Prohibited from reselling a vehicle it reacquired with alleged safety defects without informing the purchaser about the alleged defect(s) and certifying that the reacquired vehicle has been fixed,
*Prohibited from misrepresenting the purpose of an inspection or repair when directing consumers to bring their vehicles to a dealer for inspection or repair,
*Required to exclude from the "Toyota Certified Used Vehicles" or "Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles" categories any vehicle acquired through lemon law proceedings or voluntarily repurchased by Toyota to ensure customer satisfaction, and
*Required, for the next year, to consider consumer requests for reasonable and provable out-of-pocket expenses to reimburse consumers whose vehicles were part of Toyota's "floor mat entrapment" or "sticky pedal" recalls and safety campaigns. The reimbursement may be for certain out-of-pocket expenses incurred due to the recall such as towing costs and rental car costs.
Gary Cordell, director of the TDCI Consumer Affairs Division, encourages anyone who has a complaint with Toyota or any business to file the complaint online, visiting the Division's website at www.tn.gov/consumer/, or by calling the Division at (800) 342-8385 (toll-free in Tennessee) or (615) 741-4737. Consumers may also contact Toyota at 1-800-331-4331 between 7AM to 8PM Monday-Friday and 9AM to 6PM Saturdays; all times Central.
The State's Complaint and Agreed Final Judgment may be found on the Attorney General's website by going to www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral and clicking on "Filings of Interest."