CT Lemon Law: Did You Know…?

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 31st, 2008

Did you know that Connecticut Lemon Law was the first in the nation?

Signed into law on June 4, 1982, Connecticut’s Lemon Law paved the way for every other state in the U.S. to pass its own version of a Lemon Law. John J. Woodcock III, sponsored the bill (PA 82-287), and Governor William A. O’Neill signed it.

According to the Central Connecticut State University, Center for Public Policy & Social Research:

President Ronald Reagan’s policy of deregulation left consumers subject to fraud and other abuses by manufacturers. A federal law, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975, and Uniform Commercial Codes provided some protection for the consumer, but the way in which these laws were written meant the consumer usually ended up filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer. Seeking redress under either statute led to ‘frustration, delays, expense and uncertainty.’ (Kegley and Hiller, 1986, p. 88). Hence the need for a more consumer-friendly procedure.

New York Lemon Law Doesn’t Give a Right to Cancel

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 30th, 2008

Question: I just bought a new car in New York and a day after bringing it home I decided that it isn’t the car that I wanted. Can I use the much talked about “three-day period” and cancel my contract so I can buy a different car?

Answer: The three-day cancellation rule, which is the law in some states, sets out a cooling off period following the signing of certain contracts such as a mortgage for a principal residence is a great tool for consumers. It allows you to exercise buyers’ remorse and undo a bad deal.  But this isn’t the law in New York, and the NY lemon law isn’t of any help.

The three-day rule does not generally apply to car purchases and it won’t be of any help to you, unfortunately. As soon as you drove that car off the lot it lost significant value, so it would be a financial hit to the dealer to negate the deal. In almost every instance, the contract for the purchase of a car is binding from the moment it is signed. So, make sure it’s the car you really want at a price you’re prepared to pay before you put your signature on the contract.

Car Complaints: Moving Up the List

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 29th, 2008

In previous posts, we’ve been working our way up the list of 2008 vehicles that captured the top 10 slots on the Center for Auto Safety’s Car Complaint Index. Remember, the higher the ratio of complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to the number of vehicles sold, the higher it will rank on the list.

So far, we’ve discussed:

10. Volkswagen Passat

9. Volkswagen Rabbit

8. Jeep Wrangler

7. Mitsubishi Outlander

6. Jeep Commander

5. Toyota Camry

Today, we’re moving on to numbers four and three on the list: the Hyundai Entourage and the Lexus ES.

In 2007, the Hyundai Entourage faced a wiring recall. It turns out that the wiring harness was out of position in some vehicles, potentially making contact with the U-joint assembly of the steering column. According to the NHTSA, “Chafed insulation could cause a short of the wiring harness, resulting in the loss of brake lights, engine stalling, or an inability to start the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash.” Not good, to say the least. The complaints for the Entourage ranged from engine problems to airbags not deploying to structural issues with the sliding door.

The most serious complaints about the Lexus ES350 were that the vehicle accelerated suddenly. One complainant termed it “runaway acceleration,” while another suffered injuries after the car accelerated on its own and crashing into a tree.

We’ll report on the two vehicles that rose to the top of the Car Complaint Index in a few days.

Car Complaints Revisited: Numbers Six and Five

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 24th, 2008

We’ve talked about the Center for Auto Safety’s Car Complaint Index, which takes 2008 models and assigns a ratio that represents the number of vehicles sold and the number of complaints filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So far, we’ve talked about numbers 10 (Volkswagen Passat), 9 (Volkswagen Rabbit), 8 (Jeep Wrangler), and 7 (Mitsubishi Outlander). Today, we’ll move on to the 2008 models that captured the sixth and fifth slots on the list of cars with the most complaints: the Jeep Commander and the Toyota Camry.

The Jeep Commander has an unenviable list of complaints, ranging from cracking windshields to under-acceleration to broken front axles. The vehicle has also been subjected to two recalls: the front brake calipers may have been made from the wrong material, causing them to fracture; and the front control module, causing stalling problems or windshield wiper malfunction. The Commander also has six Technical Service Bulletins.

As for the 2008 Toyota Camry, the complaints are too numerous to go into detail. Some owners have reported power train problems, while others have experienced speed control malfunctions. Leaking fuel plagued some owners, and many more reported visibility problems from windshield glare due to a design flaw. 

Stay tuned for the next cars ranked on the Complaint Index.

Voice Your Support for the Used Car Rule

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on July 22nd, 2008

Back in 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented the Used Car Rule, which said that car dealers who sell more than five used cars in a 12-month period have to display a Buyers Guide. The Buyers Guide gives consumers important guidance about buying a used car, as well as warranty information about the specific vehicle they’re looking at. For a more comprehensive overview of the Used Car Rule, click here.

Last week, the FTC approved publication of a Federal Register notice inviting public comments on how the Used Car Rule is working, if it is still necessary, and if any changes should be made to it. You can download a PDF of the text of the Federal Register Notice by clicking here, then looking at the links on the right side of the FTC page.

The Used Car Rule is an incredibly important consumer protection, and one that should remain on the books. Although the FTC is seeking comment on dozens of Used Car Rule issues – both minor and major – it’s critical that everyone step forward and voice their support of the Used Car Rule. You can send the FTC your comments about the Used Car Rule via snail mail or through their online form.

As for me, I’m advocating that the Used Car Rule be revised to require even greater consumer disclosure. There are just too many unsavory characters that sell defective used cars to unwary consumers. Here’s how I think the Used Car Rule should be modified:

1. There should be a prominent warning that encourages consumers to have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic.

2. There should be a requirement that the dealer prominently displays the consumer’s rights under their state’s used car Lemon Law. Most people aren’t aware that some states require limited Lemon Law warranties, and what those warranties are.

3. There should be a requirement that that dealer disclose any known vehicle defects having to do with the car’s accident history, lemon buyback history, and salvage history.

4. There should be a requirement that the dealer disclose any odometer discrepancies.

5. There should be a requirement that the dealer disclose any prior use, such as if the car was used as a rental vehicle.

6. If CarFax is used as part of the transaction, the dealer should be required to include a copy of the CarFax report with the Buyers Guide. All too often, consumers are shown an altered CarFax report, but are not given a copy.

7. There should be a requirement that the box for selling the vehicle “As Is” is the last choice on the Buyers Guide, rather than the first. Because “As Is” is currently the first box, consumers are often led to believe that the dealer is extending minimal warranties.

So, join me in voicing your support for the expansion and continued enforcement of the Used Car Rule. Again, here’s the link for public comments.