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What Consumers Need to Know About Lemon Laws

When you buy a new product, especially one as expensive as a motor vehicle, you naturally expect that it will work as designed and intended. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

Many consumers buy a car only to find that the cruise control doesn’t work, the air conditioner only blows warm air into the interior, or the locks are never secure. These are all problems that impair the use of the vehicle, decrease its value and even present safety hazards. If multiple repairs don’t solve the problem, you’ve purchased what is known as a “lemon.”

To qualify as a lemon under the majority of state laws, a car must:

  • Have a substantial defect that is covered by its warranty and occurred within a certain time period or number of miles after purchase AND
  • The defect has not been fixed after a reasonable number of attempts at repair

Both federal and state laws protect you when you’ve bought a product with a written warranty. Here are a few things you should know about these lemon laws and how they may apply to your situation.

1.   The Missouri and Kansas lemon laws cover specific types of vehicles.

The Missouri lemon law, known as the Missouri New Vehicles Warranty Law, covers certain types of purchased and lease-purchase vehicles that are covered by the manufacturer’s new vehicle warranty. The following are not included in the law’s scope of protection:

  • Off-road vehicles
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Motorcycles and mopeds
  • The living quarters of motorhomes and recreational vehicles such as RVs

You have rights under the Missouri New Vehicles Warranty Law if your vehicle has been out of service for at least 30 business days or there have been four or more attempts to repair it. You are entitled to either a replacement vehicle or a full refund of the original purchase price and any reasonable collateral charges such as license fees and registration fees and motor vehicle inspections.

In Kansas, you have rights under the state lemon law if you bought or leased a new motor vehicle under 12,000 lbs (it does not apply to used vehicles) and within one year of owning it or during the warranty period, it has a significant defect that impairs its use and value and-

  • At least four attempts were made to repair this defect OR
  • At least 10 attempts were made to fix several different defects OR
  • The vehicle has been out of service for at least 30 days

If you believe that you have leased or purchased a lemon, recommended steps for resolution are below:

  • Check the manufacturer website to learn if the vehicle has been subject to a recall.
  • Send the dealership a letter (certified, with a return receipt requested) describing the problem and your concerns, even if you’ve already relayed them verbally. Call them to confirm receipt.
  • If the dealership does not resolve the issue (e.g. by offering a trade), send a registered letter to the manufacturer. Explain the problem and describe all measures taken to correct it.

If, after you’ve done all of the above and you still don’t have a resolution, contact an attorney. You may also file a complaint with the Missouri or Kansas Attorney General’s Office.

2.   Attorneys fees are covered.

An especially valuable feature of the state and federal lemon laws is that the manufacturer is responsible for paying your attorney’s fees if you win your case. This provision makes experienced legal counsel accessible to customers who have been taken advantage of.

3.    Federal lemon laws don’t only apply to motor vehicles.

Although cars are typically the first thing that comes to mind when we think of lemons, the term can actually be applied to a variety of consumer products. The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which was passed in 1975, requires the manufacturers to provide detailed information about warranty coverage, making it easier for consumers to review warranty information, detect any unfair provisions, and even bring a case against the manufacturer.

Products covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act include but are not limited to:

  • Motor vehicles
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Cell phones
  • Personal computers
  • Assistive devices such as wheelchairs and hearing aids

In the case of a motor vehicle, you will have a case under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act if the car has undergone an unreasonable number of repair attempts or been at the dealership for an excessive amount of time during these repairs.

4.   You have rights even if your car is not a lemon.

Even if the vehicle you purchased operates as it should, you still have rights. Some dealers will misrepresent their stock by:

  • Failing to disclose that a car was previously wrecked or flooded
  • Adjusting the odometer to make it appear as if the car has less mileage on it, a process known as odometer fraud
  • Improperly inflating the invoice price of a vehicle

Fraud can take place at almost any stage of the purchase process. If it happens to you, contact an attorney immediately.

Contact Us

If you find that you’ve been saddled with a lemon and the manufacturer is hedging on providing the remedy prescribed by state or federal law, contact Bell Law. Attorney Bryce Bell is committed to protecting your legal rights in the area of lemon law and will negotiate a settlement for your claim or take your case to trial if necessary, so reach out to us now for a consultation and case review.

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