In 1975, a victory for consumers was won when Democrats Senator Magnuson from Washington and Senator Moss of Utah successfully enacted the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This federal law protects consumers who have paid more than $25 for a product, which comes with a warranty and falls below standards of quality. As vehicles that fall into this category are called lemons, the part of the act that refers to vehicles is nicknamed the Lemon Law.
This law protects citizens in every state but some states might not cover used or leased vehicles. Under the law, manufacturers have a duty to refund the buyer or to replace the defect. They must be given three opportunities to try to fix the problem, but no more. Consumer’s rights, as laid out in the Lemon Law, go beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. The majority of states provide that the manufacturer must pay the legal fees if a lawsuit is pursued. This means that manufacturers are apt to settle out of court. Rules for used cars vary, according to the warranty and conditions of purchase. There is no protection under the Lemon Law for people who bought vehicles on an ‘as is’ basis. Sometimes, a supplier will buy back a defective vehicle from a purchaser, fix the vehicle and sell it as a used car through a car auction.
Even used vehicles with no warranty may still be helped by the Lemon Law in certain circumstances. The law may apply if the seller has knowingly sold the consumer a lemon or if the vehicle has been salvaged prior to sale. The buyer may be protected if it is proved that the odometer has been turned back or if the vehicle had previously suffered flood damage. Vehicles that have been stolen or re-built may also come under the law.
The category of vehicle, protected under the law, extends beyond cars. RV vehicles are also included, along with motorcycles, wheelchairs and boats. Computers are also listed under protection. Common situations, whereupon the law is used, are problems with transmission, brakes or steering. Electrical systems and paint defects are another reason. In addition to engine problems and finish defects, there may be annoying occurrences, such as unpleasant odors or unexplained noises.
This is a law that has variations in each state and consumers need to check the specific law, governing their area. It’s advisable to consult an attorney or consumer group for information and advice.