CHOICE membership

Car Battery Retailing dodgy and deceptive

When we need a car battery - it usually right now We are stuck somewhere, our car won’t go. That makes us ripe targets for a rip off … and the sharks seem to know that.

Some of my experiences

1 mobile battery service – pulls the battery out of my car, only then does he attach a multi meter, (he could have done that without removing the battery of course) He connects the meter, red lead to negative pole (reversed) “ mate, this is bad – its showing negative 12 volts!” When I called out his BS he drove of leaving my battery on the footpath, halting briefly in case I changed my mind. I pity that happening to my Mum.

2 Auto clubs - EG RACQ , NRMA , RACV As a member I call for a jump start and expect to see the nearest roadside assistance and as soon as possible.
What eventually arrives is a commissioned battery salesman who just happens to have on board the exact battery to fit my uncommon car. He later admits he went to the depot to collect the unique battery - meaning I waited much longer for my jump start…

Their batteries are just rebranded products I can buy anywhere for less than the special Club price.

3. Repco / Supercheap Auto - resale price maintenance when they put on deals “20% off everything “ - it excludes batteries. The monopoly on battery manufacture is being abused and is lessening competition.

4 Battery World - a franchise chain owned by the giant Century Yausa

My car needed a new ancillary battery - Think of an alarm system battery.

I phone a local store. $49 And how much to fit ? $30

I go to the store the next day - they insist on testing the main battery of course it’s not like new but the car starts just fine. 11 times he pushes me to buy a new $600 battery.

Behind the counter they have my small battery with a note taped to it - $49. I smell a rat and go look at the shelf stock. Yep my battery is marked on the shelf at $29!. The store owner shows no remorse. I walk away

I contact Battery World head office who investigate and tell me in an email that I was dishonest. They say the battery was $30 and $49 was for fitting.

So I send then a recording of the phone call that makes it very clear the battery was indeed $49, and optional fitting was $30.

Confronted with this proof that the franchise holder was scamming me and lying to them, their response was… silence. It seems they condone the shonky behaviour at the highest level.

I’m sure that many people don’t realise they are being ripped off by this predatory Industry.

What have you been subject to ?

8 Likes

This was my recent experience whilst looking for a replacement battery for my wife’s mobile phone.

And their ratings on Product Review.

As far as the RACQ goes, I would not touch them with a barge pole based on my experiences with their local agent.

Interestingly, when I was at Bunnings some weeks ago, I saw that they were now stocking vehicle batteries.

They had a display stand opposite the Tool Shop with a security cable throught the handles of all the batteries.

I suspected that they must have been literally “walking out the door” with some assistance from dishonest individuals…

3 Likes

It pays to shop around.

It’s a few years since I was caught out, and had the RACQ jump start the old work Ute. I was told it would be up to an hour. It had been bucketing rain all morning. Queue of jobs.

The service person who turned up jumped the Ute, checked the battery was charging and did not have a fatal failure. There was no battery on board. I was advised the cost of a replacement (two options) and given their depot address if I chose to buy one.
Yes, the price was another 10-15% over the top of SuperCheap.

Our local Co-op stocks batteries for the farmers, and common car batteries. It’s price is usually another 10% cheaper or approx the same as the discount/weekend specials from the big chains.

6 Likes

About 8 years ago, our OEM battery went flat after 9 years in our Subaru Forester. We used the RACQ mobile battery service. We have had the second battery for about 8 years and touch wood, if has lasted as long as the OEM one. The cost at fhe time was about $150 delivered and installed which now is seen as value for money.

When the first battery was replaced, the RACQ officer commented that he does not often see many batteries lasting more than 5-7 years and was amazed how long the battery lasted based on our driving profile (short trips with occasional long distance). He also said that their batteries were similar to fhe OEM ones…but thought it wouldn’t last as long. It has proven him wrong. It could the Subaru where is shuts down power to most systems when the ignition is turned off…reducing battery drain then the car is not used.

Our Subaru history until recently is also not a highway/high use car with an average of about 5000km per year (86k since 2004). Such driving usually is usually considered harsh on batteries and affects battery life.

I wouldn’t hesitate in using the RACQ service again, if I could (a bit difficult from our recent move to Tassie).

4 Likes

It may be one factor if that is a point of difference.

All other usage factors being similar, differences in stop to start to recharge cycling of a wet plate automotive lead acid battery may be a minor lifetime influence.

The quality and design of automotive battery regulators (charge controllers) has improved over time. The internal battery construction is also a variable.

The average consumer gets to see zero of these differences. Without some inside knowledge and detailed design comparisons most of us are none the wiser. A replacement battery may be fairly priced, or it may be a lower cost design sold as a premium product.

I’ve invested in a low cost portable jump starter pack. It has proven handy for lots of other tasks. It also solves the problem of a flat battery. Even premium batteries can fail unexpectedly.

P.s.
A challenging consumer test, if there is ever one.

5 Likes

That’s nice that you found the rebadged Century worked well. But quality is not the consumer issue I raise.

Manipulation, taking advantage of consumers in a dire state is my concern.

To share an analogy, what would you say to a dentist who charged more when you are in pain, or a shop who doubles the price of umbrellas when it’s raining?

That is the kind of unconscionable behaviour I wanted to focus upon.

5 Likes

Modern vehicles make it worse because while once upon a time there were warnings that a battery was on its way out, modern vehicles often have ‘instant failures’ to start because of all the electronics trickling power 24x7.

You have described amoral capitalism where place and time utility are factored into prices. If ‘you’ did not need a battery ‘you’ would not be buying one so price is irrelevant. A real deal might entice you to put one on the shelf, but why since it is speculative?

When you need one you probably need it straightaway, thus the battery is in the right place at the right time, and that is high ‘value’ that can command a premium price. Have a flat battery? Shopping around costs money and time and possibly significant inconvenience while the vehicle will not start, not considering the possible need for substitute transportation.

Unfortunately there are many predatory operators out there, such as those you have called out.

A few years ago I had an instant failure and no alternative transport; the battery was 5+ years old so I rang RACV Battery Service (got a phone quote) where the installed price was surprisingly competitive. They came timely, checked the charging system, swapped the battery and took the old one for recycling. My experience was positive. The battery was still going well 5 years on when I changed cars.

6 Likes

Added to this is the higher spec battery needed because the vehicle has a system to shut down the ICE when stopped and restart with release of brake. Instead of $150 - $200 it now costs upwards of $400, and time will tell how the starter motors and ring gears hold up.

There are other examples of this type of “need rectified now” situations such as HWS failure where the sharks will also be found.

5 Likes

When the battery in our Honda CRV failed for the second time during the warranty period, on a Saturday by Murphy’s Law, I called the Honda roadside assist line as the local dealer was closed.

They wanted to get the RACQ to attend, which I refused to accept, and I said that I would buy a battery from the local battery specialist, Fast Fit Batteries, who we have used for years.

Fast Fit Batteries arrived at our home shortly after I called them and replaced the battery.

When I took their receipt to the Honda dealer, they called back to say that Honda wanted to inspect the vehicle as they were surprised that there had been two battery failures within 3 years.

They inspected the vehicle and found no other problems and Honda sent us a cheque for $160 to reimburse the battery purchase, and some 3 years later, it is still going strong.

Fast Fit Batteries Google reviews.

https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1SQJL_enAU794AU794&sxsrf=ALeKk00lJHBptk-WwoRfpBMIgJynxdfYtQ%3A1588894219636&ei=C5q0Xsa7JumS4-EPvt-qoAw&q=fast+fit+battery+cairns+reviews&oq=fast+fit+battery+cairns+reviews&gs_lcp=CgZwc3ktYWIQAzIFCAAQzQIyBQgAEM0COgQIABBHOgYIABAWEB46BQghEKABOgcIIRAKEKABUM03WKFMYIJRaABwAXgAgAGDAogB2AySAQUwLjYuMpgBAKABAaoBB2d3cy13aXo&sclient=psy-ab&ved=0ahUKEwiG7a-c9KLpAhVpyTgGHb6vCsQQ4dUDCAw&uact=5#lrd=0x6978641dc6db3cf9:0x4708048924c8a13b,1,,,

And RACQ Roadside assist reviews on Product Review.

1 Like

Doubtless many of us can relate personal and second hand experiences of paying what we believe is more than a fair price.

But is it always a reliable assumption?

Supplying a car battery off a store shelf alongside thousands of other automotive products had a cost.

Driving around in a service vehicle, battery collection weighing down the rear is not the same business model. How much time does the vehicle and operator spend idle, not earning income? How much time still needs to be paid for while the vehicle finds it’s way to your breakdown? What is the cost of the time to check the vehicle, remove a battery, reinstall a replacement and recheck the operation?

Perhaps any premium simply reflects the true cost of the call in service compared to DIY from the local battery supplier or drive in service. The same can be said for breakdown plumbing services and many other consumers in crisis. Unplanned jobs do have greater overheads.

4 Likes

Sorry to hear about your bad experience(s).

We have replaced quite a few car batteries using both NRMA & RACQ. When we phone either entity with a flat battery the road service come out and attempt to restart the vehicle. The battery vehicle is only called upon when the battery(s) is/are not taking up an adequate charge.

I alway did a price check comparing the autoclub price with the carparts retailers. At most, the auto club battery was $5-10 more installed. Sometimes the battery installed was cheaper than the buying price from the car part retailer. I was happy to pay the extra to save my time going to the shops some distance away and going through the effort of buying and having the battery installed there.

We had a Ford Transit that required two large batteries at once ($500+). On the last occassion, the auto club mobile battery man said that he came straight from another job and wanted to confirm that the batteries were in need of replacment before bringing them out. Once sure they were indeed dead, he had to go to back to his depot to pick up the new batteries.

So I have had nothing but great service from the auto clubs always at a comparable cost to the car part retailers,

8 Likes

We did the same thing 8 years ago and found the RACQ cost (being a member) was slightly more than buying the battery retail through one of the auto/specialist battery shops or through Marshall mobile battery replacement service. The cost of having to get to a store (taxi) and installing it oneself meant it wasn’t more expensive. Using the RACQ service far more convenient. I expect the difference between retail price and wholesale price partly subsidised the cost of the installation…making it comparable and affordable to members.

The day the old one died, the RACQ breakdown service attended first and tested the battery, alternator, discharge when ignition was off etc and then suggesting that it needed replacement as the battery was the fault. He offerred to call their battery replacement service to do the replacement but I wanted to check prices before making a commitment. After searching around we decided to go with RACQ and called them specifically for the battery replacement. The fellow who delivered and installed the battery also tested the old one before replacing, and made the same comment that the battery was at the end of its life as the first RACQ officer. The battery was then replaced when he also confirm the battery was ‘dead’.

It is also worth noting that the morning the battery ‘died’, there was some highway driving (30 minutes) which should have charged the battery. At lunch time (at work), the battery failed to kick the car over. RACQ attended work to replace the battery.

Also one ‘bad’ experience, which could have been a misunderstanding, doesn’t constitute the whole industry is shonky or the industry overcharging because one urgently needs a battery. If it was, then I am sure that the ACCC would have had reports of industry collusion and taken action. I can’t imagine an auto club with members going a collusion ring.

Even looking today at prices from different retailers, battery prices for similar capacity batteries are similar, with batteries of different design and capacity ranging from over a $100 to many $100s.

Don’t forget that if one is a member and has a car attached to the membership, the auto club will know this information before leaving their depot or arriving at the member’s car. One would hope that they brought the right battery if one had called the battery replacement service (which incidentally for RACQ is a different service vehicle to breakdown)…rather than being mucked around and waiting for a battery to be collected. If one calls the battery service, it would be assumed that the member knows or thinks a battery needs replacement…otherwise the member would have called the breakdown service.

5 Likes

That would normally be true. However I have one of the higher level memberships, covering any car I drive. In this case the flat battery was in a spare car I rarely used (thus a flat battery) I still remember the call, and the unusual call back - when I was asked very specific details about the make model and year. That’s the information you need to supply a battery - not a jump start. And as I wrote originally, the battery salesman admitted that he diverted to the depot to pick up a battery. The fact that I advised them I would not be purchasing a battery - I just wanted the quickest available jump start, was thoroughly ignored.

Im happy that others have found the the service justifies the few extra $ and they are happy with the products. But as member of a club, I would expect much better than retail … AND do not forget I already pay a membership which includes the callout service - so the battery price should never include a delivery cost! But that is off topic.

It is the serial dishonest dealing … manipulation when buyers are desperate that I have found broadly that concerns me. have no problem defending myself but I see others have been “robbed” - most without realizing.

3 Likes

One ? I give four entirely separate examples.

1 Like

Often people know very little about how a car actually operates, moreso these days as the workings are often controlled by a computer in a black box. The problem may actually be with the alternator not charging the battery correctly or at all, due to a diode failure, or a loose/corroded cable connection or similar. Of course that will destroy a battery after a while too, but initially at the first apparent battery failure, the battery may be fine. The time of and mode of the apparent battery failure can give some indication of where the problem may lie, so clued up roadside assistance people may quiz the driver before deciding on whether or not to bring a battery. Unfortunately, when just talking to a call centre person, useful info is unlikely to be passed on to the assistance vehicle driver- often the case these days.
The issue of price gouging on car batteries is not really out of the ordinary in the capitalist system, as many of us will have seen in other threads related to the current pandemic!

5 Likes

A car battery showing positive or negative 12V means the battery charge is low and could indicate a problem with the electrical system in the car or the battery is end of life.

Some meters do show negative potential …which if reversed can then show positive reading. A negative reading provides an indication of the flow direction where it may be unclear on the battery which terminal is what. A mechanic can rightly say a reading is negative, and may have expected you to understand what a negative reading meant.

12V car batteries are rated at 12.6V and anything less than about 12.4-12.5V may indicate a problem.

If the low voltage was due to say lights being left on or the car sitting for many months, was this information communicated? And why was a mobile battery replacement service called in such case…a breakdown service should have been the preferred option if one needed a ‘jump start’ as the mobile replacement service purpose is selling and replacing a battery.

How do you know?

It is likely that since batteries are sold by a large number of retailers, service stations, service providers etc, battery prices could be very competitive and margins on batteries are low. Selling 20% off a battery may mean it is being sold less than wholesale price, meaning the stores lose money on each sale…not a good business practice if one wishes to stay in business.

See previous post. It appears that you impression may not be the same as everyone else.

This is the only one which is of concern if they did try it on. It would be deceptive if they were trying to charge you more than the shelf price. I expect the battery would have had a barcode meaning that everyone in the store was complicit in the scheme as they would have had to manually override the scan price…so that they could charge you more thsn that clearly shown on their shelf snd potentially on their website.

It could also have been a misunderstanding/mistake when quoting the prices…getting them around the wrong way by accident (I am not perfect and often make mistakes when tired, distracted or have a lot on my mind). The $49 note may have been for the install and it was stuck on the battery to remind when sold what had been offerred.

It seems odd that Battery World have responded saying the $29/30 and $49 were the other way around…possibly correcting the earlier unintentional telephone mistake.

Irrespective of that, it would have been ~$79 installed (based on your or Battery World information) which you seem to have been happy with before entering the store.

There isn’t any evidence this has occurred…it is based on one’s impression.

It would be interesting from someone/forum member currently in the car battery industry to provide an indication of retail margins on car batteries…and whether these margins are excessive or not.

3 Likes

At risk of dragging some science into this.

The start of charge of a lead acid battery battery is directly measurable by the terminal voltage, when not connected to a load or charger.

Measuring a high negative voltage on an automotive battery would seem a bit of a mystery, or possibly a misunderstanding. Just not creditable under normal circumstances. It is possible to reverse charge a lead acid battery from dead flat. It is not a serviceable outcome.

Yes, there is another possible explanation for the reported event.

2 Likes

That’s correct.

Not really, see…

https://haynes.com/en-us/tips-tutorials/how-test-car-battery-multimeter

If one reverses the multimeter probes, most multimeters will read a negative reading (measuring the potential of any battery in reverse). The battery would not have been reversed charged, only the probes measuring the direction of the current ‘flow’.

I would suggest that the meter probes were placed in reverse and the technician just inadvertently read the meter literally.

If the probes were on the right terminals and then read negative, it would be a mystery.

3 Likes

That goes somewhere none of us can be 100% certain of. As I suggested.

There is no firm evidence or proof as an ex Cardinal might have recently suggested.
I suspect that those who have read this far will now know the truth of the matter.

2 Likes

I replace my vehicle’s battery every five years or earlier if it shows any signs of hesitation at start-up. This avoids the “rip-off predators” who have you over a barrel when you suddenly need a replacement battery. In my experience, the best place to buy a car battery is Costco. Of course, timing is everything but, if possible, wait till they have a 25%-off sale, which occurs on average about twice a year. Costco sell good quality Exide batteries and will do special orders. It is very easy to replace a car’s battery and there are simple devices available that attach to the vehicle’s battery-leads that will supply sufficient, short-term, power to the electrical system to avoid loosing the radio-station presets etc. YouTube is full of “how to” videos. If you don’t wish to replace the battery yourself, the savings made at Costco can offset the cost of a “technician” doing the job. The first thing to ask any automotive repairer/technician is “what is your hourly labour rate?” For most mainstream vehicles, it should only take about a quarter of an hour, to replace, so the maths is easy.

5 Likes