By: Brett Shainfeld
When you buy a consumer product, you expect it to work the way it’s meant to — kitchen appliances should function properly, washers and dryers should operate as they’re supposed to, and cars should take you where you need to go without posing serious safety risks.
Sometimes, the items we purchase don’t live up to those standards. When things fall apart long before they’re meant to, you may have a lemon on your hands. But there are both federal and state lemon laws that protect consumers when products don’t function as they should, especially those that come with the protection of a warranty. When items under warranty break down as the result of manufacturing defects, you’re entitled to financial compensation for the time and money you’ve lost as a result of the item’s defects.
In this post, we’ll help you understand how lemon law works, what’s covered under the lemon law, and how to pursue a case against the manufacturer.
What is The Lemon Law?
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act — commonly called the lemon law — was enacted in 1975 to govern warranties on consumer products. Not every product has to come with a warranty, but the ones that do have to actually comply with their warranties. The law was created because manufacturers would use disclaimers or labels on their warranties in a way that was misleading and unfair to consumers, and too many people were being taken advantage of by confusing wording.
Now, with the Act, warranties are supposed to be more easily understood and more easily enforced. (Though, if you’ve ever tried reading a warranty in full, I’m sure you’d be willing to argue that first point.)
But in order for federal or state lemon law to help you, you have to know how the lemon law works.
How Does the Lemon Law Work?
The California lemon law states that if you are sold a defective product that’s under warranty, and that product is subject to multiple repairs, then the manufacturer may be required to compensate you for your faulty purchase. The item has to be faulty due to manufacturing defects, rather than through any fault of yours.
There is some particular wording in the law that calls for a “substantial defect” that persists even after a “considerable number” of repair attempts have been made. And what counts as a substantial defect, or a considerable number of repairs, is often determined by individual states. But essentially, the product must have an issue that severely limits its use or poses a threat to safety, and you have to make multiple attempts to fix the issue before it’s considered a lemon.
But if you do have a lemon on your hands, the manufacturer can be required to fix the product for good, offer you a replacement at no cost to you, buyback the faulty product, or offer you some type of cash settlement.
What’s Covered Under the Lemon Law?
Now that you know how the lemon law works, let’s discuss the products that are covered under the lemon law. The lemon law deals with items covered under a warranty, so this typically includes mechanical and technical products. A few examples of things that might be covered under the law are:
- Electric toothbrushes
- Kitchen appliances, such as microwave ovens, refrigerators, stoves, ovens, blenders, toasters, and more
- Desktop and laptop computers
- Cell phones
- Washers and dryers
- TVs and sound systems
- Vacuum cleaners
- Lawn care machines, such as lawnmowers, weed whackers, etc.
- And more
While most people are used to the term “lemon” being used to describe a faulty car, it can really apply to a wide variety of products. As you can see from the list above (which isn’t even a comprehensive account of everything the lemon law applies to), many of the items you use every day are eligible for compensation under the lemon law. Many of these items are costly to replace, which can give you added peace of mind when spending a large amount on home appliances, computers, and cars.
Typically, the lemon law applies to new items, because new items are ones that come with a warranty. And while you typically purchase most of the above products as new rather than used, the one exception to that is a car. Many people opt for used cars over new, and they think they don’t have protection under the lemon law. However, how the lemon law works is that it doesn’t differentiate between new or used — it only calls for a warranty to be in place. Even a used car can be protected, as long as it is still under the original warranty, or if the dealer provides you with a used car warranty when you purchase the car.
How Do I Know If I Have a Lemon?
As mentioned when we described how the lemon law works, the exact wording of what’s considered a lemon will depend on the state you live in. For cars in particular, there are allowances for certain types of car problems and how many repair attempts you have to make in order to pursue a lemon case. And these things have to happen within a certain timeframe or mileage limit from when you purchased the car.
No matter what type of faulty product you have, if you keep experiencing the same issues over and over again, you likely have a lemon. If you take your car to the shop for the same problem multiple times, whether it’s brake problems, fluid leaks, transmission issues, or something else, it’s probably a lemon.
Some of the wording around lemon law can be confusing, and it’s hard to know if you truly have a lemon or not. If you think there’s any chance at all that you have a lemon, reach out to an expert who can help. This expert would be a qualified lemon law attorney. It’s always better to look into the possibility, rather than assume you don’t qualify and miss out on the compensation you likely deserve.
What’s the Process for Getting Compensation?
The most important thing you can do in a lemon case is to keep detailed records of every repair attempt you’ve made, including the names and titles of the mechanics who’ve worked on your car or appliances. You can try to contact the manufacturer directly for a replacement or buyback, but you may not have much luck. You can also pursue arbitration against the manufacturer, where you’ll present your own case and may have limited abilities to appeal the arbiter’s decision.
Your best chance of getting your money back is through a lemon law claim. You’ll have an expert lawyer on your side who can present your case, and who is well-versed in taking manufacturing companies to court. And oftentimes, when you work with a lawyer, they’ll be able to settle the case out of court. Not only will you get a replacement product or your money back, but the manufacturer, could also all of your legal fees. So it’s a win-win for you as a consumer.
Let Shainfeld Law Take on Your Lemon Case
Even if you’ve bought a lemon, all hope is not lost. At Shainfeld Law, we have over a decade of experience helping consumers like you get the compensation they deserve. We’re well versed in California’s lemon law and have won hundreds of cases against car manufacturers.
The first step in the California lemon law process is getting the help you need by contacting us for a free consultation. We’ll walk through the car problems you’ve been experiencing, any interactions you’ve had with the car manufacturer, and what we could do to set you on the track to freedom.
Even if you don’t live in California, we can still help. We have a national network of qualified lemon law attorneys, plus our website is still full of helpful resources that can aid you on your lemon lawsuit journey and help you understand how lemon law works. Our FAQ page can also answer some of your questions and help you determine which steps to take next.
Reach out for a free consultation, or feel free to contact us with any other questions you might have about how the lemon law works. When life hands you a lemon, consider us your lemon-aid.
Contact us today to talk about your Lemon Law claim.