… taxi owners complained against electric vehicle dealer 

Yangyel Lhaden

The Dispute Settlement Committee’s (DSC) decision ordering Kuenphen Motors to pay Nu 30,000 as compensation to Neta V electric vehicle customers on August 17 has not come as a satisfactory resolution for both complainants and the dealer.

On April 25, 40 Neta V taxi operators registered a case against their dealer for delivering a different variant—384km instead of the promised 401km—of the Neta V electric vehicle and levying extra prices on delivery from the pre-booking price—Nu 1,985,000—to the Competition and Consumers Affairs Authority (CCAA).

Taxi drivers sought redressal by requesting a refund for the extra amount they were charged for the Neta V. This was due to the initial advertisement of the 401km range Neta V at a price of Nu 1,985,000, while they received the 384km range Neta V priced at Nu 2,055,000 in the first batch and Nu 2,085,000 in the second batch.

“We paid between Nu 70,000 and Nu 100,000 more than the pre-booking price,” a complainant taxi driver said. “Nu 30,000 does not make sense.” 

The DSC, in regard to the supply of a different variant of the Neta V, has asked Kuenphen Motors to pay Nu 30,000 in accordance with Rule Three of the Consumer Protection Rules and Regulations 2015 (Revision) Regulations of 2022 to the aggrieved customers, as the dealer has breached Section 211 of the Contract Act of Bhutan, 2013, and also violated Section Six of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 2012.

The investigation report by DSC stated that the delivered Neta V vehicle fell short of expectations, with a 384km range instead of the promised 401km. Specifications also differ, breaching the agreement outlined in the signed pre-order form.

However, DSC dismissed the claims from the complainants on the price fluctuation of the vehicle. 

Regarding the price difference, after verifying fluctuation rates, it was established that a price variance exists. Buyers agreed to conditions in the pre-order form, which mentioned potential price changes due to exchange rate and Container Freight Station fluctuations. The DSC confirmed USD to Ngultrum fluctuations, and the dealer used the actual free on-board USD rate for cost calculation, the investigation report states. 

The dealer clarified the reason for initially advertising 401km range electric vehicles, according to the investigation report.

Initially, China produced Neta V with ranges of 301 km and 401 km. The advertised range was based on a catalog from the Principal Company, China, without on-site verification due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The 401km range Neta V is for left-hand driving domestic markets, while the 384km range Neta V is for right-hand driving markets, as per the Principal Company’s clarification letter. The dealer admitted the car has a 384 km range, and they failed to inform the complainants due to discovering it post-arrival. They argue that the technical specs for both 384km and 401km range Neta V variants are the same, with the difference based on the market (local vs. international).

The physical examination by DSC found out that the length, width, height, wheelbase, number of seats, and battery capacity of the electric vehicle are the same, with features mentioned in the catalog, whereas torque, peak power, and km range did not match the specification mentioned.

The investigation report states that Kuenphen Motors has violated four sections of CPA 2012.

Firstly, the investigation revealed a lack of notification to buyers about the specification changes, violating Chapter I, Section 4 (b) of the CPA 2012. This section mandates providing consumers with accurate, clear, and timely information about goods and services, including prices, quality, and risks.

Secondly, the respondent breached the CPA 2012 by misleadingly advertising a 401 km range for the Neta V but delivering a 384 km range without notifying the complainant. This violates Chapter III, Section 6 (misleading representation) and Section 16 (misleading advertisement) of the CPA 2012.

Lastly, the respondent breached Section 27 of CPA 2012, which requires goods to be acceptable to a reasonable consumer considering their nature, price, statements on packaging, representations by the supplier, and all relevant circumstances of supply, the investigation report states.

“I haven’t deceived my customers,” said Thukten, the proprietor of Kuenphen Motors. He said that he had been unaware of the export version’s 384km range until after the Neta V had already been delivered within the country.

He questioned, “How can I import an electric vehicle with a 401km range when it is not the export version? And how could I have informed them about the export version when I learned about it much later?”

Thukten said that he has charged less than his sale price to the majority of Neta V customers when he sold the vehicles at a flat price—Nu 2,055,000 and Nu 2,085,000. “The calculation of vehicle price done by CCAA also shows I have charged less to the majority of my customers, and I am willing to pay back what I owe to my customers and receive money from those I have charged less.”

“I don’t understand on what basis I have to pay Nu 30,000 when it is not my fault,” Thukten said.

Meanwhile, both parties have 10 working days to file an appeal before the court from the day of the order from the dispute settlement committee.