A Los Angeles judge today overturned a small-claims court ruling against American Honda Motor Co. over the lower-than-advertised gas mileage of its 2006 Civic Hybrid.
Heather Peters had sued for $10,000, the maximum allowed in small-claims court, and had been awarded $9,867 on Feb. 1 after telling the court that her car got 30 miles per gallon, not the 50 mpg the company advertised, costing her unexpected gas money and resale value.
In overturning the ruling, Superior Court Judge Dudley W. Gray found that while Peters had standing to sue in state court, "federal regulations control the fuel economy ratings posted on vehicles" and ads citing them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates fuel economy, and the Federal Trade Commission governs ads. Honda complied with both agencies' rules, the judge ruled.
EPA ratings "are for comparison among vehicles," the ruling said, and ignore "many factors that affect mileage at a given moment." These include speed, length of trip, weather and air conditioning, it said. "Despite these variables," the ruling said, "the majority of users report mileage very close to the EPA estimates."
Regarding Peters' complaint that Honda used slogans such as "sipping fuel" and "saves money on fuel," the court said these were "non-actionable sales puffery" and "not specific promises of anything."
"Of course I'm disappointed," Peters told ABC News via email. "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 they go the extra mile fighting customers in court. I guess the moral of the story is, buyer beware - especially of Honda!"
Peters said no further appeal is allowed in small-claims court.