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China Announces Auto Recall Policy

China officially made public Monday its regulation establishing a vehicle recall system in the world's fastest-growing automotive market, according to Wang Lixin, a senior official from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Monday was World Consumer Rights Day.

The new regulation, which will go into effect on October 1 this year, details procedures for implementing recalls, whether initiated by the manufacturer or by government directive.

Fines for violations are also specified. Manufacturers committing serious infractions, such as covering up severe defects or inadequately implementing a recall, may be fined up to 30,000 yuan (US$3,624)

Analysts said that the policy is good news, although its arrival is somewhat tardy.

An official from the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., China's biggest carmaker, said last week that they were fully prepared to see the recall system established in China.

"We have established a complete system and links with component supply, and launched a trial operation," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

The administration released a draft policy in October 2002 after strong appeals from consumers and the media were ignited by the case of a woman who was hospitalized in a coma after her brakes failed in a Mitsubishi Pajero.

In China, more than 100,000 people die in traffic accidents every year. Between 7 and 10 percent of those deadly accidents are caused by technical problems in vehicles.

The booming auto market has hastened the need for standards to be set and enforced.

Many automakers have adopted independent measures for dealing with flawed products while awaiting the recall policy.

Last month, Honda launched a recall in Japan and the United States. The company notified the Chinese administration that the headlights of its Civic and Stream models were defective.

Although no accidents have been reported yet among the 1,563 Civic and Stream units on streets across the nation, the automaker promised to provide free maintenance and have the components repaired by April.

(Shanghai Daily and China.org.cn March 16, 2004)

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