For Immediate Release - February 17, 2005

Used Car Shopping During Presidents' Day?

Buyers Have Rights & Dealers Have Obligations

With the pitch for deals and auto sales just around the corner during Presidents' Day, state Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom is calling on used car dealers to ensure that consumers are aware of important protections they have under the state's Used Vehicle Warranty Law.

Random spot-checks conducted last week by the Office of Consumer Affairs at used car dealerships in Eastern and Central Massachusetts found inconsistent postings of warranty notices. State law requires used car dealers to post these notices on the windows or dashes of all used vehicles for sale.

"We're working with the dealers' association and asking city and town clerks' offices to assist us in changing that. The yellow warranty notice is likely a consumer's first alert that they have a right to a refund under certain circumstances. The fact that our arbitration process awarded used car buyers over $270,000 last year is proof it's important information," said Director Lindstrom.

The Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association will remind its membership of the requirement with an insert in its March newsletter. "Our member dealers strive to adhere to a code of ethics that includes compliance with all applicable laws. We're pleased to assist the state in bringing about greater uniformity in the posting of these notices," said Executive Director Joann Sueltenfuss. "We will serve as the point of contact for all member and non-member dealers to receive supplies of the warranty notices going forward," Sueltenfuss added.

As town and city clerks' offices are responsible for licensing used car dealers annually, Director Lindstrom's office is sending letters to all municipalities this week asking that they mail or issue dealer licenses with the agency's letter reminding dealers of their obligations to post warranty notices on all used vehicles for sale.

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 the 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.

Do You Qualify for a Refund?

You are entitled to a refund if, within the warranty period, a defect that impairs use or safety of a vehicle cannot be repaired within three repair attempts or if a vehicle is out of service for repair for a total of eleven or more business days.

No Refund? You May Qualify for Arbitration.

The state's Lemon Law allows 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.

"Our arbitration process is free, fast and gets results. You will get a resolution to your disagreement within 45 days. This is an affordable and expeditious alternative to court," added Director Lindstrom.

Used car dealers who need supplies of Used Vehicle Warranty notices are asked to contact the Massachusetts Independent Automobile Dealers Association at (781) 278-0077 or by email at mail@miada.com.

While these identified consumer protections and rights are geared towards used car sales, the Office of Consumer Affairs strongly recommends that consumers who plan on shopping for either new or used vehicles become familiar with all of the protections afforded by the Lemon Laws. This information is available online at www.mass.gov/consumer. Consumers with specific questions or who wish to apply for the state-administered arbitration program are asked to call the Consumer Affairs Hotline toll-free at (888) 283-3757.