The ownership of a defective vehicle is a frustrating occurrence. For those who purchase a new vehicle and find that the vehicle is dangerous to drive or impossible to use reliably, finding a resolution may seem challenging.
The Texas Lemon Law is available to assist Texans in their efforts to resolve a situation involving a defective vehicle. However, the potential resolution may not be what the auto owner expects. Most people, when pursuing legal assistance with an issue, may think fines, jail time or other penalties are possible for the manufacturer or dealer of the defective vehicle.
When considering the penalties under Texas Lemon Law, the answer to potential penalties depends on whether you are the buyer with a defective vehicle or the manufacturer attempting to address such an issue for the auto buyer.
For the auto buyer
While the auto buyer is not penalized legally for pursuing resolution of a defective vehicle under the Texas Lemon Law, there are certain aspects of the Lemon Law that may not seem favorable to the auto buyer.
For instance, in order for the vehicle to qualify as a “lemon,” it is necessary to pass one of the tests specifically mentioned by the Texas Lemon Law.
These include the 30-day test (the vehicle is out of commission for 30 days, not necessarily consecutive ones); the four-visit rule (four visits to the dealership or a mechanic with no resolution of the vehicle defect) and the fact that the defect makes the vehicle not drivable or constitutes a safety hazard for driver and passengers.
For another, the auto buyer may not agree with the potential resolution of repair, replacement or refund. However, those are the possible options available, and the Commission makes the determination of what is appropriate in each case.
For the manufacturer
Again, the Texas Lemon Law does not invoke penalties, per se. However, the manufacturer may feel unfairly required to replace the vehicle with another of equal value (minus the miles driven since the vehicle was purchased) or to ensure that the vehicle is repaired properly and provides a reliable mode of transportation to the auto buyer.
Legal penalties against auto buyer
Pursuing a resolution to a situation with a defective vehicle will not lead to any legal penalties for the auto buyer. Instead, it will bring about the repair, replacement or refund of the purchase price in these situations. A commission is active in Texas that makes these determinations. Once the vehicle is determined to meet specified criteria, the decision is made on what course of action must be taken to resolve the situation.
Legal penalties against manufacturer/auto dealer
Legal penalties bring to mind fines, jail time or probation. None of these are possible outcomes when pursuing satisfaction regarding a “lemon” vehicle under the Texas Lemon Law.
Instead, the focus of this particular piece of legislation is the safety and satisfaction of the auto buyer, without bringing penalties against the manufacturer.
The manufacturer or auto dealer are required to make good the purchase, providing a safe and reliable vehicle in the event the defective vehicle is proven to meet the required specifications to classify as a “lemon.”
That said, it is important to fully understand the Texas Lemon Law in order to find a positive resolution to the problem at hand as the owner of a defective automobile.
The timeframe to report a defective vehicle is six months of the expiration of the warranty term or 24 months or 24,000 miles from the date or the vehicle’s original delivery to the owner.
Next, it is vital to understand the vehicle must meet certain criteria to be classified as a lemon. Primarily, it must have undergone four or more attempts to resolve the defect with no satisfactory conclusion; or it must have been out of service for 30 days of the time the auto buyer has had the vehicle in their possession. Those 30 days do not have to be consecutive. Another determination is if the defect is considered to put the driver and any passengers at risk of loss of life if the vehicle is driven.
It is also important to understand the requirements set for the manufacturer, according to Texas Lemon Law, in the event the vehicle has to be repurchased from the auto buyer.
First, under Section G of the lemon law, the manufacturer may be required to refund the auto buyer for any addition to the vehicle by the dealer which specifically contributed to the defect in question.
The law specifically states:
“If the Executive Director orders a manufacturer, converter, or distributor to refund or replace a motor vehicle because it meets the criteria set forth in this section, the Executive Director may order the franchised dealer to reimburse the owner, lien holder, manufacturer, converter, or distributor only for items or options added to the vehicle by the franchised dealer and only to the extent that one or more of such items or options contributed to the defect that served as the basis for the Executive Director’s order of refund or replacement.”
Next, it also says that in the case of a leased vehicle, the Executive Director of the Commission may opt to terminate the lease and apportion the allowance for use and/or arrange a refund to the lessee of the vehicle.
Meanwhile, section j of the law requires the dealer, in the event the vehicle is repurchased or replaced for the auto buyer, the defective vehicle is accompanied by a disclosure statement through the first retail purchase following the replacement or repurchase by the dealer.
The dealer must also issue a new 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for that vehicle. Meanwhile, the law states:
“The disclosure statement must include a toll-free telephone number of the Commission that will enable a purchaser of a repurchased or replaced vehicle to obtain information about the condition or defect that was the basis of the order for repurchase or replacement. The Commission shall adopt rules for the enforcement of this subdivision.”
The Commission also publishes an annual report on the motor vehicles ordered repurchased or replaced and lists the vehicles by brand name and model. The defect that led to the repurchase or replacement is also outlined in the report.
In regard to an appeal of the findings of the Motor Vehicle Board of the Texas Department of Transportation or the Director of the Motor Vehicle Division of the Texas Department of Transportation, the final action, ruling, order or decision of the above mentioned are the final action in regard to the vehicle’s status. A judicial review is the only review appropriate at that time. A petition for judicial review may be filed within 30 days of the date on the action.
The auto owner should be reassured that, once a decision is made in their favor, the likelihood of a retraction is slim. The manufacturer can pursue the judicial review, and once that is complete the decision is made final.
The resolution of a situation involving a defective vehicle may be time-consuming, since the requirements to determine the vehicle defective do require a time commitment and attempts to have the vehicle repaired. Multiple trips to the mechanic may make the situation seem hopeless. However, following the time and effort, the resolution may be completed satisfactorily with the help of the Texas Lemon Law.