Fraud Alert: Airbag Scams

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on November 21st, 2008

NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday reported on an alarming new type of auto fraud. Their investigation revealed that, when cars have been in crashes and the airbags have deployed, some auto repair shops aren’t installing new airbags. Instead, they’re either putting back the original airbag, cramming in other material, or leaving the space empty. The results can be deadly. Often, the repair facility will bill insurance companies for new airbags, but never install them.

Similarly, NPR reported on a case where an unsuspecting consumer purchased a used car, not knowing it had previously been in a crash, and discovering that the airbags were useless.

While the government doesn’t track airbag fraud, NPR notes that, “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report that reviewed 1,446 fatal crashes and found that in 255 of those cases, the air bags had not been replaced after a previous accident.”

Scary stuff, indeed. This reinforces that, when you’re buying a used car, you have to obtain a vehicle history from a service like CARFAX to see if it’s been in a crash. If you’ve been in an accident, make sure you use a reputable repair shop. And, don’t assume that when the airbag light comes on, there’s a sensor malfunction. Get it checked to make sure that your vehicle’s airbags will deploy in the event of a crash.

Wisconsin Lemon Fridge Owner Gets the Cold Shoulder

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on October 26th, 2008

WKOW-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, recently reported that a family in Monroe found that they had a lemon refrigerator on their hands. Like the lemon cars we see all the time, the family’s $1,600 fridge had four different defects. Maytag wouldn’t replace the refrigerator or repair it – and wouldn’t reimburse the family $500 for the two times the fridge conked out and spoiled their groceries.

Although Annie Figi, the refrigerator’s owner, told Maytag that she had a lemon, the company (correctly) said that the state’s lemon law didn’t apply. Thankfully, she turned to the TV station’s consumer troubleshooting team, who convinced Maytag to replace the refrigerator.

While it’s true that state lemon laws typically only apply to vehicles (although assistive devices and wheelchairs are sometimes covered), it’s important to remember that other federal and state laws cover consumer goods. The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, for example, would most likely have applied, as would Section 2 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

The moral of the story? If you buy a product that’s defective, assert your rights. Ultimately, the law is on your side.

Recall Roundup: 4,564 Mercedes

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on October 18th, 2008

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

Mercedes Benz is recalling 4,564 MY 2001-2006 CL-Class (Model 215), MY 2002-2006 S-Class (Model 220), MY 2003-2007 SL-Class (Model 230), MY 2007-2008 CL-Class (Model 216), and MY 2007 S-Class (Model 221) passenger vehicles equipped with Active Body Control (ABC) acceleration sensors on the front struts. These sensors measure acceleration around the Z-axis of the vehicle and assure an automatic adaptation of the front struts to maintain a relatively level body position. Variations in the soldering process resulted in soldering points on the board of the ABC sensors which may not be within design tolerances. Signals from the affected sensors measuring the acceleration may not be accurately transmitted to the engine control unit. A variation in the transmitted values between affected and unaffected sensors can result in one front strut adjusting to a value indicating body movement while another strut does not adjust presenting the driver with an uneven front suspension. This condition may lead to unexpected body movements at the front axle which can adversely influence the vehicle’s directional stability and could lead to a vehicle crash. Dealers will inspect and replace, if necessary, the front ABC sensors in all potentially affected vehicles. The recall is expected to begin during September 2008. Owners may contact Mercedes-Benz at 1-800-367-6372.

Auto Lemon Law Alert – GM’s Massive Auto Defect Recall

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on March 27th, 2008

grandprix2.jpgSurprise! Yet another massive recall from a US auto maker.  General Motors is warning the owners of 207,542 Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix sedans not to park them in garages because they can catch fire.  The automaker said Friday of last week it is recalling the 1997-2003 Buick Regal GS and Grand Prix GDP models with 3.8-liter supercharged V-6 engines.00buickregal.jpgApparently, during hard braking, oil can leak from the engine onto the exhaust manifold, and fires can start if the oil gets hot enough, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website.  GM sent letters to the owners on Thursday telling them the vehicles are safe to drive, but they should not be parked in garages or carports until the problem is repaired.  The problem has caused 267 vehicle fires and six injuries, five of them minor and one moderate.  It also has caused 17 structure fires.