Refund, Replacement, or Monetary Damages

Getting Past the Frustrations—A Matter of Time

Understandably, this “reasonable number of repair attempts” period is always the most frustrating part of having a problem with your product or vehicle. It’ll feel like you’re shoveling wet sand trying to get to the bottom of your issue with the warrantor or seller. All while dealing with various management and service personnel of various skill levels and helpfulness.

Don’t get discouraged. The Lemon Law assures one of two things:

  • This period is only temporary and they will fix the problem as promised.
  • They’ll go beyond their allotted time to fix the problem and you can take further independent action where you’re no longer trapped within the confines of the service department.

In the meantime, while they attempt to fix your product and you can do nothing other than demand proper paperwork, have patience. This too shall pass. Take comfort in the knowledge that you will either have a fixed product, or the right to return it within the Lemon Law prescribed period. It is just a matter of time.

Consumer Tip: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

You may be advised at some point when discussing your rights under the Lemon Law with your warrantor or seller that your problem is not a “substantial impairment of use, value or safety” and are therefore not covered by the Lemon Law or entitled to a refund or exchange. Don’t worry about that. It is just another excuse to try to discourage you from seeking your Lemon Law relief for a defective product. Especially for a new vehicle (unless your problem is merely at the level of a broken dash vent or missing radio knob), your problem likely passes the substantial test and you should not be dissuaded from further action. For more information on this, see the Lemon Laws FAQs section on Diminished Functionality and Intermittent Problems below.

When Repeated Warranty Repairs Haven’t Fixed the Problem

If you have 1) provided notice of the problem to the warrantor or seller and 2) allowed them three or four chances to fix it, you now have other options and can possibly pursue one of the following:

  • A refund
  • A replacement
  • Monetary damages

The refund or replacement options are self-explanatory, but monetary damages is quite a different option that doesn’t receive a lot of print. But it is just as available for disappointed consumers and often more beneficial than the first two options.

Monetary Damages

The theory of monetary damages for defective products goes way back. It actually pre-dates most Lemon Laws and even the older warranty laws. It goes something like this: for any item purchased there is an agreed set of aspects (or criteria) between buyer and seller to which the product must conform. When the product does not live up to those agreed criteria, the buyer is entitled to receive the market value difference between the market value price of the product agreed and the one actually received.

Depending on the product, some of these options work better than others. Here are two examples:

  • There is a large market for used vehicles. So instead of demanding a refund and return of the vehicle—where you will likely be charged for your use of the vehicle up until the time of return—you might strongly consider this as a better option: a partial refund of the vehicle price where you keep the vehicle instead of returning it, and can continue driving it until you’re ready to resell on your own terms. And, not paying any mileage to the manufacturer.
  • For an appliance or television, however, there isn’t much of a resale market unless you are the manufacturer and have created your own market for “refurbished” products. So seeking a full refund and return is likely your best option.

The partial refund option is much more versatile and often better suited to items with a resale market. For any product for which the used marketplace is non-existent, full refund or replacement should be your primary goal.

Noting the Time Limits: One Important Consideration

An important note to be made here is about the difference between the refund/replacement option and the discounted purchase price option. There is a legal time limit for forcing a refund or replacement, which is often shorter than the warranty period of the product itself. After which time, usually twelve to twenty-four months, monetary damages will be your primary remedy. The rationale for limiting the refund or replacement options after a certain period of time has to do with the consumer’s use of the product prior to the point of failure.
All states have varying time limits within which to demand a refund. After this time the consumer is presumed to have already received significant use of the product, so check your state for the specific time limits.

Next – Part 5: Taking Action