Heather Peters Takes On Honda Over Mileage Claims

by Don Elliott on February 23, 2012

Heather Peters bought her 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid for more than the sticker price. She expected to get the 50 miles per gallon posted on the window sticker and widely advertised by Honda, using statements like “save plenty of money on fuel – with up to 50 mpg during city driving.”

Unfortunately for Honda, Heather Peters is turning out to be the mouse that roared. Heather, a former corporate defense attorney and candidate for Governor of California, chose to take her case to small claims court instead of accepting the class action settlement offered by Honda.

On January 3, 2012, Ms. Peters was awarded $9,867, close to the $10,000 maximum allowed in California Small Claims Court. She represented herself in the courtroom, drawing on her legal experience in a venue where, in California at least, lawyers are not allowed.

In a proposed settlement in lieu of a class action suit, Honda has offered owners $100 to $200 and a $1,000 certificate towards the purchase of a new Honda vehicle. 200,000 disgruntled Honda Civic Hybrid owners would be affected.  On her website, Heather Peters claims that the lawyer fees for the Honda settlement would be $8,474,000. This makes the outcome more beneficial for the lawyers than the Honda owners.

“To me this is really about the decline in customer service in America and how we have rolled over and accepted it for too long,” she said. “People are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it.”

Peters says that she never got 50 miles per gallon, a number Honda claims was assigned by the Environmental Protection Agency. In reality, her best mileage was only 42 miles per gallon and is currently averaging only 30 miles per gallon. The used car value she expected from the new hybrid technology in 2006 will fall to a new low for Honda Civic Hybrid owners after her recent court victory.

The settlement creates an interesting and possibly very expensive problem for both Honda and the court system. Attorney generals in California, Iowa, Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington are reviewing the Honda settlement to determine if they will take any action on behalf of the Honda owners. Small Claims Courts across the country may see a surge in activity brought on by Heather Peters’ success.

Did Honda misrepresent the performance of its Honda Civic Hybrid? Is the EPA liable for any damages in this case? What is a fair settlement for the consumer who bought more gas and now owns a less valuable car than they expected? Will Heather Peters bring Honda to its knees over the way the manufacturer handled her complaints?

Stay tuned! This story is far from over.

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