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HONDA Australia’s ongoing campaign to wrest Honda service operations away from its former dealer in Brighton has been taken a step further with messages sent to Honda owners saying Astoria’s service operation “has closed”.

But Astoria Brighton’s service department, which was one of the biggest Honda service operations in Australia, is still open and is still servicing many of the thousands of Hondas Astoria has sold in Melbourne’s affluent south-east over the years.

Honda Australia appears to be going to great lengths to make sure that it wrests those customers away from Astoria Brighton and passes them over to the newly appointed agent whose ‘area of responsibility’ takes in Astoria’s former market area.

Another discontinued dealer, Tynan Motors group CEO Daniel Tynan, has told GoAutoNews Premium that Honda Australia was also emailing its service customers with a link to other Honda dealers saying they should contact one of those dealers for their future Honda service appointments.

Tynan Motors, based in Sutherland in Sydney’s south-west, has sold Hondas for 52 years and is one of three ex-Honda dealers, including Astoria Brighton, seeking a court determination of fair compensation for the loss of business from the repudiation of their contracts by Honda Australia.

The dealers say they have never been given a reason why Honda Australia chose their businesses for repudiation of their contracts.

As previously reported, Honda has been using Astoria’s own contact list of service customers to email those customers to move their service business away from Astoria to other remaining Honda dealers.

The emails tell the customer that Honda Australia had their service details and would contact them before their next service and direct them to their nearest Honda dealer.

Those notifications are now being sent as the service falls due.

One SMS shown to GoAutoNews Premium said: Hi (first name of customer) this is to remind you that your Honda Jazz service is due in 7 days. Your previous service dealer has closed so please find your nearest Honda Service Centre here.”

The link asks the recipient to place in their postcode which then shows a surviving Honda service dealer on a map.

GoAutoNews Premium understands that the matter has been sent to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) which is currently investigating the way General Motors withdrew the Holden brand from Australia and is taking a close interest in all dealer-related matters.

The office of minister Michaelia Cash, which is preparing the details of the car retailing code of practice within guidelines just announced by the federal government that are designed to protect dealers from unfair practices by OEMs, has also been notified for consideration of this latest action by Honda Australia.

Legal analysts have told GoAutoNews Premium that, if the assertion that a dealer’s service department had closed was found to be incorrect, then the action potentially could be found to be misleading and deceptive conduct and in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law, because the dealer’s service centre is not closed.

A legal commentator said: “Potentially that is misleading and deceptive conduct, and that could be found to be in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) because the service centre is not closed.

“They can certainly say the dealer is no longer an authorised dealer. ‘If you would like to know your closest authorised dealer, it’s so-and-so’. If you say that, no problem with that. But you cannot say that they’re closed when they are not closed.”

Meanwhile a Honda Australia spokesman, responding to a request for a comment by GoAutoNews Premium, said: “We are unable to comment on the specific circumstances or details around individual dealers, claims or any reference to legal action.”

By John Mellor

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