There are seven rights that are protected for consumers by the Consumer Bill of Rights. Those include the right to value for money (products and services must be of equal value to the money paid); a right to safety, a right to information, a right to choose, a right to redress (in the case of unsatisfactory services or merchandise); the right to Consumer Education and the right to Representation (in the event the situation proceeds to legal recourse.
The Right to choose encourages competition between manufacturers or vendors of merchandise; the right to information ensures the customer is provided reliable and accurate information regarding the product or service under discussion; the right to Consumer Education means consumers have the right to learn how a market system works if they are so inclined. Meanwhile, the right to redress and representation ensures that the customer has a defined method of pursuing compensation when a product or service does not live up to the value of the money spent on said goods or service.
Now, in addition to the Consumer Bill of Rights, Texas consumers are protected by the Deceptive Trades Practice (Chapter 17 of the Texas Business and Commerce Code). THis particular law provides coverage of a number of situations and prohibits people and businesses from intentionally misleading customers regarding a particular sale or business transaction.
Section 17.46 specifically lists potential practices or items and the manner in which they are sold that are expressly illegal.
These include false, misleading or deception in relation to a sale. This includes claiming goods or services are your own when they are actually owned by another; intentionally causing confusion in regard to certification or affiliation of a specific good or service, intentionally misleading the consumer in regard to where the goods or services originated geographically, claiming that a service or specific goods have the backing or approval from brands or celebrities when the specific goods or services do not have such backing; claiming goods are new if they are in fact used or reconditioned and representing the goods or services in a manner that is not backed up by the item for sale when it actually changes hands.
Consumers are also protected in the event that the goods or services are presented as having remedies or obligations that are not legally applicable to the item in question or that repair service will be available for free or at a reduced rate when, in fact, that is not the case. Any individual who fraudulently claims a sale due to going out of business status, when they are in fact not going out of business, are representing the goods falsely, and that situation is covered under this law.
This specific law also protects the consumer if it can be proven that a vehicle’s odometer has been tampered with or the number of miles has been rolled back.
While that specific instance of falsely representing a vehicle is covered under this law, it is also important as a vehicle owner to be aware of the Texas Lemon Law, which protects a vehicle buyer in many other instances not specific to tampering with the odometer.
The Texas Lemon Law covers new vehicles that are purchased under warranty and have an issue arise within the first 24 months or 24,000 miles – an issue that can’t be easily resolved by a mechanic or a trip to the dealership’s maintenance department.
The issues covered by the Texas Lemon Law are ones that put the vehicle owner and any passengers at risk of their safety. These issues do not include cosmetic issues or a problem with an accessory system, such as the entertainment or A/C.
The issue must be with the vehicle’s systems and can’t be caused by an after-market installation.
The Texas Lemon Law requires that the vehicle owner make four attempts to get the vehicle fixed with no discernible results. Meanwhile, the owner must make the dealership or manufacturer aware of the issue and ongoing problem despite attempts at repair. This notification is best completed in a written form and sent via Certified Mail so it can be verified. Likewise, any visit to a mechanic or the dealership for maintenance should be documented and all receipts and repair reports saved.
If the vehicle is out of commission 30 days or more during the first 24 months or 24,000 miles (whichever occurs first), then the vehicle is most likely covered under the Texas Lemon Law. You as the vehicle owner should be forewarned – even if you have taken the vehicle to the mechanic four times already with no satisfactory results, the manufacturer must be permitted to attempt to get the issue fixed – through a reasonable number of attempts.
A complaint filed under the Texas Lemon Law must be done through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. A $35 fee is required at the time of filing and the complaint can be filed online. Administrative staff in the Lemon Law department of the Texas DMV review the case and will initially attempt to reach a resolution through mediation. If that is unsuccessful, a hearing is then scheduled.
It is also important to note that, while a complaint under the Texas Lemon Law does not require an extended court battle, the examiner who oversees the hearing and makes the determination of whether the manufacturer will be required to make good on the situation and how that will be done, the decision can be appealed.
When attending a hearing, be prepared, have all pertinent information with you and bring along the vehicle with the issue and any witnesses to the issue to the current date, in order to facilitate a faster resolution. It is wise to keep up with all regular maintenance of a vehicle, in order to avoid being accused of neglect if a situation arises with a vehicle defect that can’t be repaired. Also, keep up with any recalls on your specific vehicle. That can go a long way toward keeping the vehicle in optimal running condition as well.
Also, if a complaint is filed under the Texas Lemon Law and it reaches a hearing, the results may be that the manufacturer is tasked with getting the vehicle in question repaired. The other possible outcomes include reimbursement or replacement. Both reimbursement and replacement factor in the miles the vehicle has been driven since it was purchased and do not include any reimbursement for aftermarket additions to the vehicle.
It is possible to find a resolution to your vehicle problem, provided you are organized, prepared with the pertinent details to the ongoing issue and have documentation to prove the issue can’t be easily repaired. Also, any documentation of testing done to confirm the issue is wise to keep handy.
Vehicle owners in Texas do not need to give up in frustration when an unrepairable issue arises in a new vehicle. Instead, it is worth the time and effort to keep track of the situation and the various attempts to see it resolved on your own. At that point, the Lemon Law staff at the Texas DMV will recognize the effort and be more likely to move things along in a way that helps you resolve the situation satisfactorily.