The Star-Telegram recently reported that the Lone Star State will open a new agency on November 2: the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. The state’s Department of Transportation has been handling all aspects of vehicle titles, license plates, and car registrations, but officials feel that the new department will be more efficient and save the state money. The major difference between the Texas DMV and those of other states is that the Lone Star State’s DMV won’t issue driver licenses. Instead, the Texas Department of Public Safety will continue to do so. The DMV will, however, be responsible for lemon law enforcement.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently released a lemon law report for the 2008 calendar year. The report says that Texans who purchased or leased defective new vehicles received $7.6 million in 2008, and more than $101 million since 1993.
The study found that close to 30% of those with lemons received replacements, buybacks, or trade-ins, while 28% received repairs, extended service contracts, or other remedies. According to Brett Bray, director of TxDOT’s Motor Vehicle Division, “The numbers indicate the Lemon Law continues to do what it is intended to do – help consumers with defective vehicles get relief.”
We wonder, though, what happened to the 42% of cases that weren’t resolved. We suspect that, if more consumers were represented by lemon law attorneys, the resolution numbers would be higher.
According to the TxDOT press release, “The Lemon Law Rules require that a manufacturer, distributor, or converter re-title a reacquired vehicle. The re-titling requirement facilitates enforcement of disclosure requirements and hinders what is known as “lemon laundering” or “title washing.” In the near future, the title will include a notice sufficient to inform a prospective purchaser that the vehicle was reacquired by the manufacturer under the Lemon Law.
“State law also requires manufacturers to issue a disclosure statement and hang the disclosure label from the view mirror and in the event that the vehicle does not have a rear view mirror the disclosure label must be affixed in a conspicuous location on vehicles ordered repurchased, replaced or reacquired to settle a Lemon Law complaint. The disclosure requirements are also mandatory for vehicles reacquired under another state’s Lemon Law and transferred to Texas for resale.”
So, if you’re looking at used cars in Texas, be on the lookout for that disclosure statement. You don’t want to buy someone else’s lemon.
I’m always interested in the perspective of other Lemon Law attorneys, and recently read a blog entry by Texas Lemon Law attorney Kevin Le that pointed out the perils associated with consumers filing spurious Lemon Law claims.
Kevin noted that, unlike some other states, Texas Lemon Law doesn’t allow dealerships or manufacturers to be liable for twice or three times the damages if they actively try to get out of refunding or repurchasing a lemon. He then pointed to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in which the shoe was on the other foot. In Wisconsin, manufacturers can face double damages if they don’t pay up within 30 days. In this case though, the consumer is on the hot seat for allegedly not providing Mercedes with the information it needed in order to give him a refund. The consumer supposedly didn’t give the manufacturer his car loan information, so Mercedes couldn’t write a check. The case is winding its way through the court system, but an appellate court ruled that the consumer now has to prove that he didn’t withhold the information on purpose so that he could force Mercedes to break the law and exceed the 30-day deadline – and then collect double the amount.
Thanks, Kevin, for the head’s up about Texas Lemon Law and the case in Wisconsin.