Do you need rust protection?

Rusty car

Thinking of buying rust protection for your car? Consumer Protection in Western Australia recently secured an Enforceable Undertaking under the Australian Consumer Law, against the suppliers of so-called ‘computerised electronic corrosion inhibitors’ (CECIs).

These CECIs use pseudo-science and fear-based marketing (the idea that, without one, your car might rapidly turn to rust as you drive). Basically, the car is connected to an allegedly ‘sacrificial’ piece of metal and hooked up to the car’s electrical system in an arrangement the sellers purport protects the bodywork from rusting.

The Western Australian consumer regulator found that the CECI products simply don’t work. Two distributors of CECI systems – High Performance Corporation Pty Ltd and MotorOne Group Pty Ltd – have been ordered to stop the sale of CECI systems and also refund the purchase price for consumers who purchased the products. The companies are also required not to supply, advertise or promote the CECI units – or substantially similar systems – from 31 December 2015.

In New South Wales, Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe has also issued a warning to consumers about CECI products. Mr Stowe said false and misleading statements had been made about CECI devices in multiple jurisdictions and that the alleged ‘science’ behind the devices simply could not work because this kind of sacrificial protection works only if the vehicle were also submerged in a conductive (electrolytic) solution. (Think: salt water.) Mr Stowe said the false and misleading statements made about CECI systems included: “Laboratory tests demonstrate a reduction in corrosion process by as much as 80 per cent effectively doubling your vehicle’s lifespan against rust and corrosion.”

CECI systems are often sold by car dealers and other retailers (such as auto parts stores and window tinting installers) as part of a ‘protection package’, and can cost as much as $4000.

Car dealers are generally very keen to sell ‘protection packages’ to car buyers because these are high-margin transactions which are easy to sell too many consumers based upon the fear that the investment in a major purchase might be compromised by virtue of inadequate protection.

The commonest ‘protection’ products and treatments are paint, rust and fabric protection. The benefit of all three is questionable. Modern cars are generally galvanised (coated in zinc before painting). This protects them from rusting, which is why cars today no longer rust out so rapidly as their predecessors from the 1970s and 1980s.

Likewise, modern paint is comprised of a colour coat topped with a rock-hard clear coat, with the latter providing beyond adequate protection for the former. Durable fabrics are also chosen for upholstery in a modern car, and the ability of one treatment of whatever product to protect the seats from a lifetime of wear and tear is far from an established science.

In many cases you can save thousands on your new car – without compromising its longevity – by politely declining the offer of ‘protection’

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