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Los Angeles Vehicle Lemon Law Blog

A legal claim can achieve justice for dealership vehicle fraud

Californians who purchase a new car are expecting the term "new" to be taken literally. While a few miles on the odometer is understandable, a vehicle that has been utilized extensively cannot be categorized as brand new. If a car dealership does not inform a buyer that the vehicle was used for other purposes, this is a legal violation. Those who have been impacted by this must remember their consumer rights to be compensated.

Dealerships and manufacturers have vehicles for demonstration purposes. In some cases, it has gone beyond simple demonstration. It could be loaned out, rented or used as a fleet vehicle. There are many terms for this, including "brass hat" and "program car." Purchasers should be aware of a vehicle's history when they buy it, or the dealership might be participating in vehicle fraud.

An overview of lemon law claims

If a vehicle is defective, its owner may have recourse under both California and federal law. The federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act allows a person to pursue compensation if they are sold a defective product. In California, an individual may file a lemon law claim whether the vehicle was leased or purchased outright. However, it is generally necessary to allow a manufacturer an opportunity to fix the defect before filing a claim.

The number of attempts that must be made to fix an issue before declaring it a lemon may depend on the type of problem that exists. In some cases, only one failed attempt to fix an issue could qualify a vehicle as a lemon. Typically, a vehicle must come with a valid factory warranty to be covered by a lemon law. Those who wish to file a claim can do so on their own or with the help of Auto Line provided by the Better Business Bureau.

Auto dealer fraud is not uncommon

California is among the state leaders in providing extensive and comprehensive consumer protection laws. However, this fact alone does not prevent predatory practices by unscrupulous business owners seeking to increase their bottom lines at the expense of their unsuspecting customers. The laws are of little value when the consumer is unaware of the fraud that is being perpetrated, and some say that the automotive industry is one of the worst offenders in this regard. Even regular, everyday transactions between some auto dealers and the purchaser or lessee of a vehicle must be carefully scrutinized.

Many people think of the California Lemon Law when they think of misconduct by the auto industry. These laws apply where a vehicle under warranty continues to experience mechanical problems that affect driver safety and cannot be repaired despite multiple attempts by the specific car dealer. In such a case that meets the statutory requirements, a replacement vehicle is provided, or the vehicle is returned, and the consumer is reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses. However, there are more insidious practices by auto dealers that the average car buyer probably doesn't know to look for.

How to pursue a lemon law claim

California residents who purchase defective vehicles are granted protections under state law. A vehicle may be labeled as a lemon if it has spent more than 30 days in the shop or if four attempts have been made to repair the same issue. Only two attempts are required to fix serious issues that may render a car dangerous to operate. The defect must appear within 18 months or during the first 18,000 miles that the car is driven.

Owners can help themselves by making sure to keep records of all attempts to repair a vehicle. It can also be a good idea to document the time and place where the problem first became apparent. To initiate a lemon law case, an individual must contact the manufacturer of the vehicle as opposed to the dealership where it was purchased.

About the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

People in California who are concerned about the quality of the products they purchase should be familiar with the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. It is a federal law intended to protect consumers from misleading warranty practices, to make sure warranties are not difficult to comprehend and to allow violations to be legally enforced. While the law is meant to benefit consumers, it also unexpectedly benefits dealers as well.

Consumers are able to benefit from the law because of the accountability and transparency it requires. In the majority of cases, the law makes it illegal to have implied warranties, a tie-in sales provision or misleading warranty terms. The law is considered beneficial to dealers because as it helps to increase customer satisfaction rates, it also provides a supplemental stream of revenue for dealerships. However, there is a question as to who is responsible for honoring the warranty.

An electric SUV is impressive, unless it lights on fire

It is virtually impossible to drive through the Los Angeles area without passing multiple high-end vehicles. And whether you chose an Audi for its German engineering, sleek exterior or engine performance, you likely trust you and your family are safely seated in luxury.

Audi released its first electric SUV earlier this year. And you may have been one of the first to express interest in the vehicle’s fast charge, suspension options and towing capacity – powered by a battery. However, Audi is recalling more than 1,600 of their E-Tron EVs due to a potential fire risk.

When dealers sell "hidden" used cars and demo models

When people purchase a new vehicle from a dealership or manufacturer, they expect it to be reliable and in great condition. Almost all dealers use some vehicles to demonstrate features, use as a sample or otherwise promote their business. However, these cars can also come with additional problems due to extensive wear and less careful management of the vehicles. If you have discovered that you have an undisclosed demo car or executive vehicle, it may be important to learn more about your rights under California law.

Dealers and manufacturers use several different names to describe these types of vehicles, including demonstrator or demo models, executive cars, brass hats or program cars. Some of these cars are even more likely to suffer damage and develop serious problems, such as loaner vehicles, rental cars, fleet vehicles and off-lease vehicles. The dealership or manufacturer is required to inform buyers that they are in fact purchasing a used car; they are not allowed to advertise or describe the vehicle as new. When dealers fail to inform consumers about a vehicle's prior usage, this is a form of dealer fraud and a deceptive business practice.

Used cars can be sold while under recall

Cars in California and throughout the country that are defective may be recalled so that the issue can be fixed. However, dealerships are generally allowed to sell used vehicles under recall before the problem is resolved. Safety advocates say that this unnecessarily puts used car buyers at risk of being hurt or killed. Dealers say that forcing them to fix vehicles before they are sold could have negative consequences for trade-in values.

The National Independent Auto Dealers Association says that parts shortages could result in a car staying on a lot for years until a defect can be repaired. In some cases, consumers don't even know that their preferred vehicle is the subject of a recall. One man bought a pickup truck that was recalled for its potential to burst into flames even if it was parked and not running. The truck did eventually catch on fire while it was parked in his driveway.

Protecting yourself under the lemon law

In California, motorists are protected under the state's lemon law. However, it is essential that you understand what to do if you have a vehicle that you believe is a lemon. You need to make sure that everything about your vehicle's problem is documented correctly each time that you take it to the dealership for repairs.

When you take your vehicle in for repairs, make certain that each of your concerns is documented on the repair order before you sign it. If something is not listed, ask for it to be added before you sign. Don't sign a repair order that is not written accurately. Make sure to ask if any technical service bulletins have been issued for your concern. If there has, ask the service writer to note the TSB on the repair order.

What to look for before buying a used vehicle

Used car buyers in California are urged to learn as much about a vehicle as possible before completing a transaction. This may prevent them from purchasing something that needs significant repairs or upgrades. A quick overview of the car itself could reveal clues about previous attempts to repair a dented frame. Paint that doesn't match the rest of the vehicle could also signal that repairs have been made in the past.

Engine oil should be clean and able to stay in the vehicle when it is driven. Dirty oil or signs of an oil or other fluid leaks may signal problems that could be costly to repair. Furthermore, there should be consistent oil pressure when the car is driven. To truly determine a car's condition, it should be driven for at least 15 minutes on highways and other main roads.

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