LEGAL MATTERS: What To Do If Your Car is a Lemon
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Common sense dictates that a manufacturer of a new motor vehicle must honor the warranties and responsibly make repairs when there is a problem with the new vehicle. But, what happens when the vehicle is a real lemon and multiple, frustrating attempts fail to fix the problem?
The Rhode Island New Car Lemon Law provides that the owner or lessee of such a vehicle may be entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund of the full contract or lease price, less a reasonable fee for use.
The Lemon Law contains a number of restrictions and qualifications that affect the consumer and manufacturer. Most notable, the manufacturer or dealer is generally provided four attempts to cure the problem. If the vehicle is out of service for at least 30 days for warranty repair then the manufacturer has one final opportunity – not to exceed seven days – to cure the problem with the vehicle.
Used Cars are Covered, Too
Rhode Island is one of the states that also has a lemon law specifically targeted at protecting buyers of used cars when that car is bought from a dealer and it is bought primarily for personal use.
Under the law, dealers must warranty used cars with 36,000 miles or less for 60 days or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. If the car has more than 36,000 miles but not more than 100,000, the warranty must cover the vehicle for 30 days or 1,000 miles. The warranty must cover major vehicle functions such as the engine, transmission and drive axle.
The warranty covers the repair as long at the consumer notifies the dealer of the problem within the warranty period. If the dealer fails to honor the warranty; can’t correct the problem after three attempts; or the vehicle is out of service for 15 or more days during the warranty period; the dealer must take the vehicle back and refund the full purchase price less an allowance for damage or modifications that decrease the value of the car.
Rhode Island’s Lemon Laws are not the only means of legal protection available for consumers. Rhode Island also has the UCC, otherwise known as the Uniform Commercial Code, and the Rhode Island Unfair Sales Practices Act. The federal government has promulgated a number of regulations and laws that may also apply, including, but not limited to, the Used Car Rule promulgated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If your car is a lemon and the dealer cannot get it fixed, it may be time to contact your attorney to enforce your rights.
Susan G. Pegden is a litigation associate with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins in Providence. She is admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Rhode Island Association of Justice (RIAJ).
Sean P. Feeney is a partner with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins. He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island, Illinois and Wisconsin. Mr. Feeney is a former special counsel to the City of Providence, military prosecutor with the United States Marine Corps and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California.
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