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We handle cases across the United States. Allen Stewart is licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Arizona.

How Consumer Advocacy Shaped Lemon Law Legislation 

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Defective vehicles are the ultimate curveball. Buying a new car should be a celebratory moment, after all the planning and saving and research and test drives that go into finding and choosing your new ride. That excitement can curdle quickly after discovering a repeating, unfixable defect in the vehicle. If this happens to you, it may be a small comfort knowing you aren’t alone.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates consumers in America, unbeknownst to them, buy or lease 150,000 defective vehicles every year. These “lemon” vehicles contain defects ranging from minor cosmetic issues to serious problems affecting performance and safety. No matter what causes the defect — substandard materials, faulty components, faulty design or worker error – it remains the responsibility of the manufacturer to make it right. When they drag their feet in doing so, lemon laws empower consumers and their attorneys in getting compensation.

Lemon law protections arose thanks to consumer advocacy and governmental action at the state and federal levels. Without the efforts of citizens and lawmakers demanding better protections for consumers, we would not have the protection we enjoy today.

Each state has a “lemon law” outlining the protections available for consumers when their vehicle ends up defective. These laws can vary from state to state, differing in how long a consumer can report problems, how many repair attempts they must allow, and other variables. All these laws hinge on written warranties, which form the basis of lemon law protections. Without the promises written in a warranty, the consumer has little to no legal recourse. This is why most states do not have lemon law coverage for used vehicles, unless the vehicle is resold within its original warranty period. Some states, including New York, do have specific lemon laws for used vehicles.

For more information on arbitration and other frequently asked lemon law arbitration questions, click here.

Joining state laws is the federal Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, which applies to all Americans no matter what state they live in. T Sen. Warren Magnuson (D-WA) first introduced the Act into the U.S. Senate on May 14, 1973. It then passed in the Senate on Sept. 12, 1973. It passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 19, 1974 and U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signed it into law on Jan. 4, 1975.

The Act makes companies provide warranties with clear, consise language, otherwise those ambiguities will be held against the company in court.

The Act, signed into law in 1975, arose following years of alleged consumer abuse by businesses throughout the 20th century . During America’s early centuries the main consumer law was caveat emptor: let the buyer beware. Consumers had to exercise their own savvy and advocate for themselves when making purchases. However, newer laws were needed as the market grew more complex and the manufacturer got further separated from the end consumer.

The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) originally tried to standardize sales and commercial laws across America. States can adopt the code into their statutes either partially or in full, though the code is not law. Every U.S. state adopted the rules except Louisiana, which chose to abide by their Napoleonic-inspired civil law traditions.

The UCC didn’t go far enough in protecting consumers from corporate abuse, and as such consumers demanded action from politicians. They wanted the goverment to oversee and support consumer lemon laws and provide legal support for wronged consumers who want to sue corporations. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act provides consumers and their attorneys the tools and support they need to take on corporate malfeasance and get consumer justice.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes manufacturers distinguish between “full” and “limited” warranties and specify exactly what they cover in a single, clear, easy-to-read document. They must also make the warranty easily available for the consumer to review, letting them shop for warranty coverage before making a purchase.

The Act also keeps companies from disclaiming or modifying implied warranties with their written ones. This means consumers can always enjoy the basic protections of “implied warranties of merchantability;” that goods sold must do what that good is advertised to do. For example: a new car should move and transport passengers and cargo from one place to another safely. A car that can’t does not conform to the implied warranty of merchantability.

Magnuson-Moss makes it easier for consumers to sue for breach of warranty by making it a violation of federal law, bringing the case out of the individual state’s hands and into the federal purview. It also lowers the amount of economic damages normally needed for federal jurisdiction.

Lemon laws are confusing. Read our guide to the lemon law complaint process.

One aspect of Magnuson-Moss unfortunately offers little help to consumers. The Act allows manufacturers to require aggrieved customers to go through arbitration before filing a lemon law claim. Arbitration, also known as an “informal dispute settlement procedure,” rarely works out in the consumer’s favor.

Lemon law attorney Andrew Ross with Allen Stewart P.C. said arbitration usually ends in a single day inside a conference room, not a courthouse. However he said the best case scenarios of arbitration rarely work out in a satisfactory way for the consumer, as the manufacturer usually only sends to the meeting an engineer coached by a lawyer behind the scenes.

“It’s been my experience that those arbitrations are a waste of time,” Ross said. “Rarely does the BBB render a decision that satisfies the consumer.”

Ross said in most cases arbitration can end in a buyback, but even that isn’t guaranteed to go smoothly.

“When they award a buyback, they don’t tell you what the figures are,” he said. “First you must accept the decision, and then they’ll tell you what the figures are. It’s a bad situation for the consumer.”

Consumer advocates throughout American history have fought against corporations in defense of their rights. Without their struggles throughout the years we wouldn’t have the protections we enjoy today. Allen Stewart P.C. honors their legacy by continuing the fight for consumer rights and standing up for the everyday American. They have the knowledge and experience needed to guide your lemon law claim to a successful resolution. Don’t wait any longer: contact Allen Stewart P.C. today.

This information brought to you by Allen Stewart P.C.

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