A judge has reversed a lower court ruling against Honda over the automaker's fuel economy claims. Heather Peters successfully sued Honda in small-claims court in February, claiming her 2006 Civic Hybrid didn't return the advertised 50 miles per gallon Environmental Protection Agency rating. Peters was awarded $9,867 in damages in the lawsuit, but now Judge Dudley W. Gray II of the state Superior Court in Torrence, California, has reversed the lower court's ruling.

Honda has offered owners a settlement in a larger class-action suit, paying out either $100 or $200 depending on the vehicle and as much as $1,500 toward the purchase of a new Honda. According to The Detroit News, around 1,700 Honda owners have declined to participate in the class-action suit.
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Honda Wins Small Claims Battle, Loses Public Relations War

United States, California, Los Angeles, May 8, 2012 - Last February a small-claims court in California ordered Honda to pay Civic Hybrid owner Heather Peters $9,867.19 for falsely advertising 50 MPG city and highway. Instead of owning up to its mistake, Honda hired a national law firm with more than 800 lawyers to appeal her win. Lawyers are not allowed in small claims court in California, but they are allowed on appeal where losses are re-tried in their entirety.

After three days of testimony on Honda's appeal, Honda's dream team of lawyers, led by Roy Brisbois, founding partner of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard and Smith LLP, convinced Superior Court Judge Dudley W. Gray, II to overturn Peters' victory. Honda cited reams of complex federal regulations that it claimed required advertising of fuel economy numbers that the EPA itself had determined were inflated. Peters' reaction to the ruling was:

"It's a sad day when regulations designed to protect consumers are used against them. I'm certain that the EPA and FTC never intended to shield Honda from liability for advertising claims that a court of law determined to be false."

A 178-page EPA report of 2006 found that hybrids in general have a greater sensitivity to operating conditions than conventional vehicles. The report states that hybrids "can either take full advantage of the hybrid technology or essentially nullify it" and found that the EPA testing methods overstated city fuel economy of the Honda Civic Hybrid by 85% when compared to the onroad testing of Consumer Reports. Click here to read full report - www.epa.gov/fueleconomy/420d06002.pdf

Nevertheless, Judge Gray found that Honda complied with EPA and FTC regulations. Peters does not fault Judge Gray for applying a poorly-crafted consumer regulatory scheme beyond his control, but she is urging the FTC and EPA to revisit the regulations to better protect consumers.

Regardless of Honda's victory in this small claims appeal, it has suffered an enormous public relations loss. The Peters case was widely publicized in over 1,000 news stories globally which have given a great deal of negative publicity to the automotive giant. Peters says:

"Of course I'm disappointed, but I'm still glad that I raised awareness that Honda is no longer the great brand that it used to be. They used to go the extra mile in customer service, now the go the extra mile fighting customers in court. I guess the moral of the story is buyer beware - especially of Honda!"

The court decision is now final as California's small claims court rules do not allow for further appeals. Click here to read the Court's ruling - Final Decision

A recent settlement of class action litigation regarding the same claims raised by Peters may help other Civic Hybrid owners collect a nominal cash award and coupons towards future Honda or Acura purchases. Peters urges anyone who owned or leased a 2003-2009 Civic Hybrid to read about their rights at www.hchsettlement.com. 1,705 people who opted out of the class action settlement may possibly be able to opt back in. The Settlement Administrator is available to answer questions about the terms of the settlement and about the possibility of opting back in. Call (877) 465-4797 and press "9" to skip the recordings and speak to a human.


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  • 56 Comments
      brian
      • 2 Years Ago
      What part of "Your Mileage May Vary" did she not understand?
        Actionable Mango
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brian
        Imagine you had a car that got nearly 50mpg for years. Then one day you took it to the dealer for routine maintenance such as an oil change. Without your permission and without notifying you, the dealer installs software that BY DESIGN reduces the mileage of your car by 20mpg. You would be perfectly happy with that and telling everyone, "well I now get shitty mileage, but that's okay, because you know mileage varies". You would also have to believe it's perfectly okay for a car company to use high-mileage software during EPA mileage testing, then switch to low-mileage software later in real life.
        Basil Exposition
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brian
        So you would be fine if a company advertised a car at 20 MPG*, you bought it, and it turned out it only was capable of 10 MPG? *Your mileage may vary
        telm12345
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brian
        Okay, so all of you who are thumbing this down: You would have no problem paying full price for a Prius (which you bought due to MPG) and then getting 20 MPG? Oh, but because its Toyota then it's okay. BS.
      merlot066
      • 2 Years Ago
      http://www.leftlanenews.com/honda-to-reprogram-90k-civic-hybrids-due-to-battery-failure.html http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2010/08/honda-civic-hybrid-battery-update-brings-fueleconomy-complaints.html This is not a "your mileage will vary" problem. It is a "after getting used to driving your car for a year and getting a certian mileage average your Honda dealer will reprogram your car and you will see your mileage dropping as much as 10 MPG" problem.
      Brent
      • 2 Years Ago
      Screw Honda.
      g2k
      • 2 Years Ago
      I drove around in my Prius with half a ton of bricks in my trunk and sued Toyota because I only got 20 mpg - Heather Peters in 3 years
      James Mackintosh
      • 2 Years Ago
      Oh my god, that is the most biased, absurd press release I've ever read. Anyone taking that seriously... sigh. Here's the basic fact: the EPA rates fuel mileage. Not the manufacturer; the Environmental Protection Agency does that, and the manufacturers are required to stick those numbers on the window. They're hardly ever accurate; sometimes better, sometimes worse, your mileage may vary according to the lead content of your foot, etc. So we're just startin off on the wrong foot with this crazy lady suing the wrong person (sue the EPA if you think the numbers are wrong!). She files in small claims so that Honda can't mount an actual legal defense to a frivilous, pointless lawsuit. She gets awarded the maximum payable amount in small claims minus the court fees, and sets a precedent of whiney litigators suing manufacturers for not meeting a specification they didn't set in the first place, which comes with a disclaimer right below it which says you may not, and probably WILL not, meet it. And people support her? How is she any better than hot coffee mcdonalds idiot lady? Hint: she's not.
      chest rockwell
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's a slippery slope if she ends up winning at the end of this. With all of the things that can effect gas mileage (highway/city, road surface, elevation, temperature, extra weight in the car, fuel quality, tires, etc....), I feel like you have to know going into buying a car that the mileage on the sticker may not reflect what you see at the pump. I'm sympathetic to the folks who had their ECU's modded (or whatever they did), which most likely resulted in slightly lower mileage - but I think this "let's all take Honda to small claims court" attitude is completely unnecessary. If you're unhappy with your Civic, take the $200 and never buy another Honda again. Simple as that.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @chest rockwell
        [blocked]
          • 2 Years Ago
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          chest rockwell
          • 2 Years Ago
          The problem with these payouts is that they never reach the right folks in class action lawsuits. The lawyers collect millions while the actual victims are left with chump change. I think most folks could walk away pleased if they received a fair refund based on mileage lost due to the ECU mod. I'll let someone far wiser than me due the math, but what would the flat breakdown be for Honda's settlement $$'s over the number of qualifying vehicles? Lose the lawyers and they are probably dishing out about a grand to each owner, which would probably make most happy. I just cringe at what will happen if she wins. I feel like every vehicle recall will result in thousands of claims in small court.......
      The Calligrapher
      • 2 Years Ago
      I applaud those 1700 owner who declined to participate. Your integrity as intelligent people is worth much more than any amount of money.
      Shiftright
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sad, I have to side with her on this one
      Alex
      • 2 Years Ago
      Thank goodness Honda won. Otherwise everyone and anyone can sue for anything that doesn't meet a claim despite the advertisement saying IT MAY OR MAY NOT MEET THAT FIGURE DEPENDING ON WHETHER YOU ARE A JACKASS OR NOT
      Ocellaris
      • 2 Years Ago
      Surprised that only a few people seem to have a problem with Honda "updating" people's ECUs (usually without permission) in an attempt to save the battery. The modifications greatly affect some people's real world MPG, and Honda was only doing it because they didn't want to warranty failed batteries. Also Honda never revised the EPA numbers after the update, they just went along like no change was made. In the end, it probably would have been better for Honda to leave the ECUs alone and then replace battery failures under warranty. I am fine with people who can't get EPA MPG numbers, but not fine with manufacturers making drastic changes to car behavior so they can protect themselves from warranty claims.
      zzz
      • 2 Years Ago
      bitch got pwned!
      Justin Campanale
      • 2 Years Ago
      Guys, this has nothing to do with "your mileage may vary." This lady is filing a lawsuit because when she went to her healer, the dealership, without her permission, reprogrammed the car to get lower mileage in lieu of better acceleration.
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