Which? wants recall for 'exploding' seatbeltsCar recall loopholes exposed

22 September 2011

Peugeot 307 CC

VOSA has not recalled the Peugeot 307 CC, despite reports of 'exploding' seatbelts

The body responsible for issuing car safety recalls in the UK has decided not to recall a range of Peugeot convertibles, following cases where owners claim seatbelt mechanisms have ‘exploded’.

VOSA (the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) says the issue is ‘not classed as a safety defect.'

Which? Car has learnt of four instances of this problem occurring during the past two years and affecting 307 CC models made in 2003 and 2004.

'Exploding' seatbelts

The owners say the incidents all happened in normal, low-speed driving; the seatbelt pre-tensioners suddenly activated, accompanied by what they describe as a loud bang or explosion. They also say the rollover hoops deployed at the same time and the cars’ engines cut out and could not then be restarted.

An independent engineer’s report, shown to Which? Car, found that water leaking into the electrical system appeared to cause the problem, which left at least two drivers with neck and back injuries

The cases came to light after solicitors acting on behalf of 307 CC owners contacted Which? Car. Jerard Knott, a defective product expert with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: ‘Bearing in mind Peugeot has settled one claim and admitted liability in two more cases pending medical reports, I'm surprised VOSA does not think the matter warrants further investigation. I hope that it takes another look at the facts, as we're concerned someone may be seriously hurt.’

Car safety recalls

VOSA referred us to its Code of Practice on Vehicle Safety Defects and told us that ‘a safety defect is defined as a feature of design or construction which is liable to cause significant risk of personal injury.’ It stated that a safety defect ‘is an issue that happens suddenly and without warning.’ However, we found no reference to this statement in VOSA’s Code of Practice online.

VOSA also said: ‘Peugeot’s investigation shows the issue in question was preceded by warnings from the car’s on-board warning systems and would therefore not be classed as a safety defect. A recall is not required  where a safety defect is not evident.’

But only one owner noticed a warning light, just seconds before the incident. Which? Car thinks the sudden nature of the 307 CC problem should warrant a recall on safety grounds, and will be meeting with VOSA to discuss this problem, along with the procedure for car safety recalls.

In the meantime, Peugeot has agreed to pay for the repairs of at least three affected vehicles. A spokesman said that the company would stand by VOSA’s decision, however.

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