Monday, June 22, 2009

Lemon Law - Its Origin

By Neal Spoton

Lemon laws are state laws that provide remedies to purchasers of automobiles that still fail to meet implied standards of quality and performance. These autos are called lemons. The federal lemon law (eg, Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act) protects citizens of all states. Lemon law rights vary, however, from state to state and some do not necessarily cover used or leased cars. The legal rights granted to citizens by lemon laws may go beyond the warranties. "Lemon law" is the common nickname for these laws, but you need to remember that each state has different names for the laws and acts.

Going back to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (P.L. 93-637), however, it is a United States federal law (15 U.S.C. 2301 et seq.). Enacted in 1975, it is the federal statute that governs warranties on consumer products. The Act was sponsored by Senator Warren G. Magnuson of Washington and Congressman John E. Moss of California, both Democrats. Legislative history of the Act indicates that its purpose is to make warranties on consumer products (automobiles, in the case at hand) more readily understood and enforceable and to provide the Federal Trade Commission with means to better protect consumers.

The Act provides that any warrantor warranting a consumer product (auto/ car) to a consumer by means of a written warranty must disclose, fully and conspicuously, in simple and readily understood language, the terms and conditions of the warranty to the extent required by rules of the Federal Trade Commission. The Federal Trade Commission has provided laws/regulations governing the disclosure of written consumer product warranty terms and conditions on consumer products actually costing the consumer more than $15.

The Act gives auto buyers access to reasonable and effective remedies where there is a breach of warranty on a consumer product (i.e., when they've been cheated). The Act provides for informal dispute-settlement procedures and for actions brought either by the government, by private parties, or both.

In California, lemon laws cover anything mechanical, as do the federal lemon laws. The federal lemon law also provides that the warranter may be obligated to pay the prevailing party's attorney fees in a successful lemon law suit, as do most state lemon laws. Lemon Laws vary from state to state, so accurate information on the scope and restrictions of Lemon Laws in a particular state should be obtained from a "lemon law attorney" practicing in that state.

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