PROTECTING THE CONSUMER

SO YOU THINK YOU GOT A LEMON? GUESS WHAT? YOU PROBABLY DO – AND YOU’VE GOT RIGHTS!

Californians are fortunate enough to have an excellent consumer protection law called the “Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act,” more commonly known as the “Lemon Law” which affords California consumers the right to take legal actions against manufactures of defective vehicles.

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The Lemon Law is fairly simple. If the manufacturer cannot repair your vehicle after a “reasonable” number of attempts, the manufacturer must either replace the vehicle, or reimburse you an amount equal to the purchase price.

The term “reasonable” regarding number of repairs has been defined as the inability of the manufacturer to repair the same defect after four attempts. However, you only need two repairs if the defect is “life-threatening or likely to cause serious bodily injury.” It is also considered “reasonable” under the Lemon Law if the vehicle is inoperable for a cumulative thirty days so long as the repairs are attempted within the manufacturer’s warranty period.

In addition to replacing the vehicle, or reimbursing you for the price you paid for the vehicle, the manufacturer must pay for your license fees, rental expenses, towing, and out of pocket repairs. They may also pay for some or all of your attorney’s fees, and other losses.

Of course, there are some catches. The defects must affect the use, value or safety of the vehicle and only apply to vehicles still under the original manufacturer’s warranty. A constantly broken cup holder, for instance, would not qualify under the Lemon Law. Nor does the law apply to motor homes, motorcycles, or vehicles primarily designed for off road use (these vehicles are included under different laws). Also, the manufacturer is entitled to a deduction for mileage put on the vehicle prior to the defects occurring. Other restrictions may also apply.

The best part of the Lemon Law is that you can get rid of your lemon, recoup most or maybe all of your expenses in purchasing the vehicle (including any loan or lease payments you have made after the purchase), and much of your other losses resulting from the defective vehicle. The Lemon Law truly is a consumers’ law.