Lemon Law: It Helps to Know the Law

It seems that the need for lemon law only becomes clearer as time goes on—and it’s now reaching the rest of the world. A just-released study in Australia has found that faulty goods such as cars and electrical appliances cost the Australian economy about $12 billion a year. Citing lemon laws in the U.S. that have saved consumers when stuck with defective vehicles, the study calls for Australia to enact the same type of legislation.

Laws protecting consumers have been around for hundreds of years, but legislation specific to defective vehicles took a long time to evolve. The 1906 Uniform Sales Act was an attempt to regulate commerce throughout the U.S., the need for which was brought about by the great robber barons who banded together to manipulate prices and profits. In 1952, after more than ten years of drafting and revisions, the Universal Commercial Code emerged. Its purpose was to modernize the law governing commerce and trade, but was not designed to consumers as it was for merchants.

The first milestone in lemon law legislation came with California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act of 1970. Under this act, manufacturers were only entitled to a reasonable number of attempts to repair defective consumer goods. If unsuccessful, they were compelled to either replace the goods or refund the purchase price. The legislation also made it economically viable for consumers to bring warranty suits by providing for an award of attorney’s fees. The Song-Beverly Act became the model for nearly all the lemon laws that followed in other states.

In 1975, Congress enacted federal lemon law in the form of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act. While not as effective as the Song-Beverly Act, this legislation did attempt to encourage manufacturers to provide better warranties.

California led the way once again in 1982 with the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, which specifically defined guidelines for a “reasonable number of repair attempts,” and again in 1991 with the Automotive Consumer Notification Act, which was meant to reduce what is known as “lemon laundering” (the practice of reselling lemons to unsuspecting car buyers).

“It’s no fun being on the receiving end when manufacturers and their dealerships won’t take responsibility for defects in the cars they sell, even though they know the defects exist,” said Norman Taylor, leading California lemon law attorney. “The law is an attempt to put you in the driver’s seat.”

If you are driving a lemon, the law is squarely behind you. Contact a qualified lemon law attorney right away.

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