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When They Just Won't Get It Sorted, Call On The Lemon Law

Aug 17, 2007
The automobile lemon law is designed to protect consumers from irreparable manufacturer's defects in vehicles that should be covered by a car service contract.

Back in 1972, when purchaser demand for consumer protection started to swell, more than 1 million people were found to have paid for vehicles that had many problems that dealers could not, or would not, repair. Connecticut and California were the first states to implement an automobile lemon law, and other states were quick to follow. Today, with the increased accountability demanded by these laws, the number has dropped to about 100,000 new cases a year.

What Protection Can You Expect Under Lemon Law?

Although every American state has a lemon law, the absolutes of each law vary widely. Specifically, you are a candidate for protection if you have a major problem (or, in some cases, a string of minor problems) that falls under your car service contract. A problem is usually considered severe when it threatens the use, value, or safety of the vehicle. Examples of severe problems that would probably be covered include brake failure, transmission problems, and frequent occasions when the vehicle won't start. The lemon law in most states will not cover situations like funny noises, loose cup holders, and flaking paint.

The type of vehicle is also important when it comes to protection under the law. In some states, leased vehicles are covered as well as purchased vehicles. Some states exclude automobiles purchased for business purposes or special kinds of vehicles such as RVs and motorcycles. Even used vehicles may be covered if they come with a car service contract.

Some dishonest automotive dealers write a clause in the sales contract that states that no lemon law claims can be made against the vehicle. These requirements, however, are not legally valid and can be ignored - as long as your vehicle has a car warranty and qualifies under the other legal provisions, you will be covered no matter what you signed.

Before the automobile lemon law applies, you must give the manufacturer plenty of opportunity to fix the problem. In most cases, this is defined as a precise number of repair attempts (for example, four attempts to repair the same problem) or a certain amount of time when the vehicle is under repair (for example, four weeks). A life-threatening vehicular defect may require only one attempt at repair before falling under the law.

What Should I Do If I Qualify For The Automobile Lemon Law?

If you feel that you qualify for protection under the lemon law, you must make a claim with the manufacturer within a specific period of time. In most states, the case will then be brought for arbitration with the manufacturer. If you win your case, you will usually receive a replacement vehicle or a refund of your purchase price minus a fee for vehicle use.

Most California manufacturers use the Better Business Bureau Auto line to settle claims; when you contact the manufacturer, they will send you to the Better Business Bureau's Auto Line. From there, you fill out a claim form and provide any documents that support your case. Your claim gets forwarded to the manufacturer who then has to respond with how they plan to resolve the issue.

When you receive the response, you decide if it is satisfactory. If it is, then your arbitration goes no further, and you receive the benefits that were decided upon. If you are unsatisfied with what the manufacturer proposes, then the Better Business Bureau will start the formal arbitration process. The service is free.

When you are in arbitration, you will be given the opportunity to explain the details of your claim to an impartial judge in the Better Business Bureau offices. It is in your best interest to bring along any documents that might support your claims concerning routine maintenance, vehicle warranty work, and correspondence with the manufacturer over your claim.

Within 40 days of your arbitration hearing, your case will be decided upon. If you are still unhappy with the results, you can take your case to formal court with a lemon law attorney. The manufacturer will be legally bound by the decision of the arbitrator.
About the Author
Lemon Law is one of the best

consumer protection
measures ever put into law. Now you have full recourse if a vehicle purchase goes wrong and any action needn't cost you a penny. Full details can be found at
if you need to go to the next stage with your dealer
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