For Immediate Release - February 10, 2006

State's Lemon Law Arbitration Program Backs Consumers When Car Sales Go Sour

Car Buyers Should Know Their Rights Before Driving off the Lot

As National Consumer Protection Week concludes, Massachusetts Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom urged consumers who end up with defective cars to make their first line of defense the state's Lemon Law Arbitration program.

During Director Lindstrom's tenure, the Office of Consumer Affairs' New and Used Vehicle Lemon Law Arbitration program awarded more than $3 million to car buyers that wound up with either new or used lemons. More than half of the $3 million was the result of settlements entered into by manufacturers of new cars or used car dealerships.

"This track record proves that consumers don't need to use a legal service to get the compensation they deserve. Our program is free, fast and gets results while avoiding potentially lengthy litigation," said Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom. In 2005, nearly 2,000 consumers contacted the Consumer Affairs' hotline with questions about the Lemon Laws or to apply for arbitration.

Auto sales typically increase in February with the Presidents Day push by dealerships. The Consumer Affairs office wants car buyers to be familiar with their rights and the free arbitration program available to them if their new or used car turns out to be a lemon.

New Car Buyer Protections

  • Under the New Vehicle Warranty Law, new car buyers are protected with a one-year, 15,000-mile warranty.
  • Car manufacturers are required to repair any substantial impairment to your car within the terms of protection and within a specific number of repair attempts.
  • If your car is not repaired, an arbitrator can order the manufacturer to refund the full purchase price, including credit for a trade-in or other expenses.
  • You are entitled to a refund if, during the warranty period, a defect that impairs the use, safety and/or market value cannot be repaired after three attempts plus an additional repair attempt by the manufacturer or if a new auto is out of service for repair for a total of 15 or more business days.

Used Car Buyer Protections

  • The Used Vehicle Warranty Law requires a written warranty that protects buyers against defects that impair the use and/or safety of a vehicle with up to 125,000 miles on the odometer.
  • The dealer warranty cannot be waived. Your dealer must give you a signed, dated and correct copy of the warranty at the time of purchase.
  • Dealers are required to repair any defect that impairs a vehicle's use or safety within an applicable timeframe based on mileage of a vehicle at the time of purchase.
  • State law requires used car dealers to post warranty notices on the windows or dashes of all used vehicles for sale.
  • You are entitled to a refund if, within the warranty period, a defect that impairs the use or safety of a vehicle cannot be repaired after three repair attempts or if a vehicle is out of service for repair for a total of 11 or more business days.

No Refund? You May Qualify for Arbitration.

The state's Lemon Laws allow for arbitration if both parties cannot agree that the standards for a refund have been met. Under the arbitration program administered by the Office of Consumer Affairs, a neutral "judge" will hear both parties' testimony and determine whether applicable standards were met to qualify the buyer for a refund.

The specific provisions of the Massachusetts Lemon Laws are available online at www.mass.gov/consumer. Consumers with questions or who wish to apply for the state-administered arbitration program may contact the Consumer Affairs Hotline toll-free at (888) 283-3757.