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Ontario Court of Appeal Affirms Dismissal of EnerGuide Fuel Consumption Label Class Action

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Automotive Bulletin

In 2018, a class action claiming $1.5 billion in damages was certified against Ford Motor Company and related entities. [1] The claim centred on fuel consumption ratings set out in EnerGuide labels on new Ford 2013 and 2014 models. The plaintiff alleged that Ford had breached the federal Competition Act and certain provincial consumer protection statutes, which prohibit false or misleading advertising and false, misleading or deceptive representations, respectively.

The plaintiff, Mr. Rebuck, alleged he reviewed the EnerGuide label when he purchased his new 2014 Ford Edge SUV. The label gave a rating of 36 mpg for highway driving, and he claimed that his on-board fuel consumption display showed 23 mpg. A review of Ford’s test methods used to generate the fuel consumption data on the EnerGuide labels demonstrated that Ford had used a “2-Cycle Test” in respect of 2013 and 2014 vehicles, even though it used a “5-Cycle Test” for comparable vehicles in the United States. It was material that the “5-Cycle Test” was not adopted by the federal Department of Natural Resources in Canada until 2015.

The class action was dismissed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on the Ford defendants’ motion for summary judgment in mid-2022. [2] On Appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed the decision to dismiss. [3] The Court of Appeal agreed with the motions judge that the Ford defendants had complied with the federal government’s directives and guidelines, including by using the 2-Cycle Test in 2013 and 2014.

As stated above, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed the class action on a motion for summary judgment in 2022. Justice Belobaba dismissed the Competition Act claim primarily on the basis that the Ford defendants had complied with federal government guidelines that prescribed a 2-Cycle Test method. The plaintiff had also failed to establish any general impression conveyed by the labels that was false or misleading.

With respect to the consumer protection claims, the plaintiff’s argument was that Ford should have disclosed, alongside the labels, additional information about the differences between 2-Cycle and 5-Cycle testing. Justice Belobaba focused his analysis on whether there had been false, misleading or deceptive “non-disclosure”. His Honour found, based on the Ford defendants’ expert evidence, that the EnerGuide labels referred to Fuel Consumption guides published by the federal government, which provided detailed information about the testing methods, and that consumers for whom fuel consumption was important would have consulted the guides.

The plaintiff unsuccessfully challenged these findings on appeal. The Ontario Court of Appeal held that:

  • although by 2014, the 5-Cycle Test was widely acknowledged as better approximating real-world driving conditions, this did not mean that Ford was obligated to shift to the 5-Cycle Test in Canada when the government only required the use of the 2-Cycle Test;
  • the “general impression” conveyed by the EnerGuide label to the average car buyer was not that the listed estimates predicted actual fuel consumption; and
  • the EnerGuide label prominently directed customers to the federal guides, such that they were provided with “accurate and valuable information about fuel consumption.”

This is an important case for participants in the auto industry and all potential class action defendants, as it demonstrates the courts’ unwillingness to find parties liable for private law claims where they have complied with government requirements. This is noteworthy as we see climate claims against private entities on the rise.



[1] Rebuck v. Ford Motor Co., [2018] O.J. No. 6709 (QL).

[2] Rebuck v. Ford Motor Company, 2022 ONSC 2396.

[3] Rebuck v. Ford Motor Company, 2023 ONCA 121.

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