Understanding the Lemon Laws

A Seller’s Promise to You

Often, a seller’s promise of a normally functioning product is explicit (precise and clear) and contained in writing, like a warranty. Or, the promise is implicit (unspoken) and requires no specific statement or promise. When you have that promise and the product later experiences problems, you can—and should—expect that the warrantor (the seller) will fulfill its obligations to you and correct the problem. You should have the choice of either a refund or a replacement.

You can look into pursuing a formal claim for a refund or replacement if the seller or warrantor does these two things:

  • Cannot correct the problem and
  • Refuses to provide a refund or replacement of the product

If you seek the assistance of legal counsel in your claim, fees also should be paid by the manufacturer.

In other words, the Lemon Law provides a refund or replacement option when the product cannot be repaired as promised. On top of that, it gives you the ability to force the issue on an even playing field with the assistance of a professional when the warrantor denies any further relief beyond repetitive, ineffective repairs.

The #1 Lemon Law Myth:

Very often, the Lemon Laws cover you when you experience problems with your consumer product or vehicle. But, that’s not always the case. This is the most misunderstood aspect of the Lemon Laws and how they operate. In fact, it is the #1 myth about Lemon Laws.

Most believe that Lemon Laws cover every consumer purchase when there’s a problem, no matter what. Not so. In fact, the Lemon Law is not nearly the all-inclusive umbrella of consumer protection most of us would like it to be—or what most of us think it to be.

What the Lemon Laws are useful for, is helping you to enforce the original promises given to you by the retailer or maker when you bought the product in the first place. This is where we should start to understand what we can—can’t—do when our newly prized vehicle or HD television no longer function. Basically, the Lemon Laws don’t create any new protections or promises you didn’t already have.

New, Used and Pre-Owned Products

We rely on the mutual understanding of purchasing a defect-free product (made by the seller or warrantor) at the time of sale. Fortunately, most new consumer products sold today have a Warranty which makes the applicability of the Lemon Laws almost a “given” with any new consumer product purchase.

For used or pre-owned products or vehicles, you may also receive the benefit of a fully transferrable warranty. This applies to the next owners just as it did the original purchaser until it reaches expiration.

Tip: To know whether or not you’re covered, you should review the
“Who is Covered” section of your warranty.

Whether the product is new with a warranty or used with a warranty, the effect is the same: if you have an active warranty, the Lemon Law most likely has you covered. Again, the general rule is that Lemon Laws are helpful when you have prior promises like a warranty, and generally not helpful when you don’t.

Note: There is an exception to this general rule called the implied warranty, which is addressed in Part 5. It may provide independent protection for some vehicle and product purchases in some states. This protection tends to:

  • Be very limited
  • Expire quickly

Most of the time, the implied warranty is generally disclaimed, and therefore, not generally useful for most consumer purchases Make sure to read the next Lemon Laws section and act fast if this applies to your situation.

Next – Part 3: Warranties