My vehicle meets the definition of a “Lemon” and my case has been accepted for arbitration. Do I automatically get a refund or replacement vehicle?
The law provides basic guidelines for remedies, but there is no fixed rule. Each case is treated individually by the arbitration panel when determining an award. If their decision is in your favor, the award will generally be:
A refund of the contract price. The arbitrator may or may not award a mileage deduction for the use that you have had of the vehicle. The statutory mileage deduction is computed by multiplying the present mileage of the vehicle times the contract price and dividing that figure by 120,000. Refund or replacement awards may also include reimbursement for other damages or costs. We advise you to have receipts.
If the arbitrator finds the defects in question do not substantially impair the use, safety or value of the vehicle, a “no action” decision is rendered. Therefore, no further action to remedy the problem shall be required of the manufacturer. Your recourse at this point would be to seek legal counsel for private litigation against the manufacturer. You could only reapply for Lemon Law arbitration for a different defect, which meets the eligibility requirements.
When can I expect an arbitration decision?
The Department tries to resolve disputes within 60 days from the date the completed form is received to the date a decision is reached. Once the arbitrator renders the decision, it cannot be changed or modified by the arbitrator or the Department.
What if I’m dissatisfied with the arbitration decision?
In most cases, the decision of the arbitrator will be final. You will not be able to appeal the decision to the court except under very limited circumstances. Therefore, if you are considering taking legal action against the manufacturer of your automobile, you should consult with a private attorney before signing the Agreement to Arbitrate. The best way to find out how to appeal a decision is to consult with an attorney.
When can I expect the manufacturer to comply with an arbitration award?
The written decision will state the exact date for performance. The arbitrator will make every effort to see that the problem is resolved at the earliest possible date. The Department will contact you within ten (10) days after the performance date to determine if the manufacturer has complied with the arbitrator's decision. If the manufacturer has not complied with the award, the case is referred to the Office of the Attorney General.
What if I request arbitration, but the manufacturer and I resolve the problem on our own?
You are free to reach a settlement through your own efforts at any time before the arbitrator renders the decision. If this happens, you must contact the Department with the specific terms of the decision settlement. The information should include the following:
1. The date on which you accepted the manufacturer’s offer of a pre-hearing settlement.
2. The specific terms of the pre-hearing settlement:
- Was there a Refund or Replacement or Repair or Other Remedy?
- Who will pay for the difference in model/year upgrade? How much?
- Will there be a deduction for mileage?
- Who is responsible for registering the new vehicle, including cost?
- Who is responsible for the difference in sales tax?
- If the settlement is a repair, what happens if the repair does not work?
- What type of warranty will be given with the replacement or repair?
- What monies is the consumer responsible for?
- What monies is the manufacturer responsible for?
3. The date by which the terms of the decision settlement will occur.
Before you accept an agreement from the manufacturer make sure all costs are in writing. This will avoid any problems or “hidden costs” when the exchange takes place. The Department has no jurisdiction over a pre-decision settlement.
If we reach an agreement on our own but the manufacturer then does not meet the terms, what should I do?
Notify the Department of Consumer Protection, Lemon Law Office in writing, if the terms of your settlement are not met within a specified time frame. At that point, the State arbitration process may resume and a new hearing date scheduled. Keep in mind, the Lemon Law legislation does not cover settlements made between a consumer and manufacturer prior to a decision by the arbitrator.
Certified manufacturer’s programs
If your manufacturer has an arbitration program that has been certified by the Office of the Attorney General, you will be required to use that program before you can be eligible for the Lemon Law arbitration program. As of this printing no third party dispute resolution program has been certified by the Office of the Attorney General.
If you are injured by a procedure of a certified Manufacturer’s program, you may file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General. You may appeal to the state arbitrator for a new hearing. The fees and procedures are the same as outlined earlier for arbitration hearings.
Your Right To Know: posted notices in dealerships
If any manufacturer does not have an arbitration program certified by the Attorney General, then a conspicuous notice of the state-operated arbitration program must be prominently displayed in all car dealerships. Keep in mind, the Lemon Law Arbitration Program is designed for consumers and manufacturers, not dealerships.