Failing to provide a Chevrolet driver with roadside breakdown service on Christmas night in 1997 cost General Motors do Brasil a fine of 20,000 reais (about $US8,000) in Rio Grande do Sul state court recently, writes Rogério Louro Alves.

GM had advertised that its roadside rescue service operated all year round, 24 hours a day but it would not come to the aid of a doctor in a broken-down Blazer SUV on Christmas night in Rio Grande do Sul state nearly four years ago, the court was told.

A call centre operator who received the doctor's request for help told him that the service did not operate at Christmas and would not dispatch a rescue truck.

The court fined the automaker for falsely advertising that the service was available.

The doctor gave the court a cellphone bill confirming that he made a seven minute call to the Chevrolet rescue service on the Christmas night in question along with a call to the highway police.

GM is to appeal the decision.

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