Iowa Lemon law Chapter 322G.1-15
Iowa Lemon law 322G.1 Legislative intent.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.2 Definitions.
- “Collateral charges” means those additional charges to a consumer wholly incurred as a result of the acquisition of the motor vehicle. For the purposes of this chapter, collateral charges include, but are not limited to, charges for manufacturer-installed or agent-installed items, earned finance charges, use taxes, and title charges.
- “Condition” means a general problem that may be attributable to a defect in more than one part.
- “Consumer”means the purchaser or lessee, other than for purposes of lease or resale, of a new or previously untitled motor vehicle, or any other person entitled by the terms of the warranty to enforce the obligations of the warranty during the duration of the Iowa lemon law rights period.
- “Days” means calendar days.
- “Department” means the attorney general.
- “Incidental charges” means those reasonable costs incurred by the consumer, including, but not limited to, towing charges and the costs of obtaining alternative transportation, which are the direct result of the nonconformity or nonconformities which are the subject of the claim. Incidental charges do not include loss of use, loss of income, or personal injury claims.
- “Lease price” means the aggregate of the following:
- Lessor’s actual purchase costs.
- Collateral charges, if applicable.
- Any fee paid to another to obtain the lease.
- Any insurance or other costs expended by the lessor for the benefit of the lessee.
- An amount equal to state and local use taxes, not otherwise included as collateral charges, paid by the lessor when the vehicle was initially purchased.
- An amount equal to five percent of the lessor’s actual purchase cost.
- “Lemon law rights period”means the term of the manufacturer’s written warranty, the period ending two years after the date of the original delivery of a motor vehicle to a consumer, or the first twenty-four thousand miles of operation attributable to a consumer, whichever expires first.
- “Lessee” means any consumer who leases a motor vehicle for one year or more pursuant to a written lease agreement which provides that the lessee is responsible for repairs to the motor vehicle.
- “Lessee cost” means the aggregate of the deposit and rental payments previously paid to the lessor for the leased vehicle.
- “Lessor” means a person who holds the title to a motor vehicle leased to a lessee under a written lease agreement or who holds the lessor’s rights under the agreement.
- “Manufacturer” means a person engaged in the business of constructing or assembling new motor vehicles or installing on previously assembled vehicle chassis special bodies or equipment which, when installed, form an integral part of the new motor vehicle, or a person engaged in the business of importing new motor vehicles into the United States for the purpose of selling or distributing the new motor vehicles to new motor vehicle dealers.
- “Motor vehicle” means a self-propelled vehicle purchased or leased in this state, except as provided in section 322G.15, and primarily designed for the transportation of persons or property over public streets and highways, but does not include mopeds, motorcycles, motor homes, or vehicles over ten thousand pounds gross vehicle weight rating.
- “Nonconformity” means a defect, malfunction, or condition in a motor vehicle such that the vehicle fails to conform to the warranty, but does not include a defect, malfunction, or condition that results from an accident, abuse, neglect, modification, or alteration of the motor vehicle by persons other than the manufacturer or its authorized service agent.
- “Person” means person as defined in section 714.16.
- “Program” means an informal dispute settlement procedure established by a manufacturer which mediates and arbitrates motor vehicle warranty disputes arising in this state.
- “Purchase price” means the cash price paid for the motor vehicle appearing in the sales agreement or contract, including any net allowance given for a trade-in vehicle.
- “Reasonable offset for use” means the number of miles attributable to a consumer up to the date of the third attempt to repair the same nonconformity which is the subject of the claim, or the first attempt to repair a nonconformity that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, or the twentieth cumulative day when the vehicle is out of service by reason of repair of one or more nonconformities, whichever occurs first, multiplied by the purchase price of the vehicle, or in the event of a leased vehicle, the lessor’s actual lease price plus an amount equal to two percent of the purchase price, and divided by one hundred twenty thousand.
- “Replacement motor vehicle” means a motor vehicle which is identical or reasonably equivalent to the motor vehicle to be replaced, and as the motor vehicle to be replaced would have existed without the nonconformity at the time of original acquisition.
- “Substantially impair” means to render the motor vehicle unfit, unreliable, or unsafe for warranted or ordinary use, or to significantly diminish the value of the motor vehicle.
- “Warranty”means any written warranty issued by the manufacturer; or any affirmation of fact or promise made by the manufacturer, excluding statements made by the dealer, in connection with the sale or lease of a motor vehicle to a consumer, which relates to the nature of the material or workmanship and affirms or promises that the material or workmanship is free of defects or will meet a specified level of performance.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.3 Duties of manufacturer.
- At the time of the consumer’s purchase or lease of the vehicle, the manufacturer shall provide to the consumer a written statement that explains the consumer’s rights and obligations under this chapter. The written statement shall be prepared by the attorney general and shall contain a telephone number that the consumer can use to obtain information from the attorney general regarding the rights and obligations provided under this chapter.
- At the time of the consumer’s purchase or lease of the vehicle, the manufacturer shall provide to the consumer the address and phone number for the zone, district, or regional office of the manufacturer for this state where a claim may be filed by the consumer. This information shall be provided to the consumer in a clear and conspicuous manner. Within thirty days of the introduction of a new model year for each make and model of motor vehicle sold in this state, the manufacturer shall notify the attorney general of such introduction. The manufacturer shall also inform the attorney general that a copy of the owner’s manual and applicable written warranties shall be provided upon request and provide information as to where the request should be made. The manufacturer shall inform the attorney general where such a request should be directed and shall provide the copy of the owner’s manual and applicable written warranties within five business days of a request by the attorney general.
- A manufacturer or the authorized service agent of the manufacturer shall make repairs as necessary to conform the vehicle to the warranty if a motor vehicle does not conform to the warranty and the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer or authorized service agent during the Iowa lemon law rights period. Such repairs shall be made irrespective of whether they can be made prior to the expiration of the Iowa lemon law rights period.
- A manufacturer or the authorized service agent of the manufacturer, shall provide to the consumer, each time the motor vehicle is returned after being examined or repaired under the warranty, a fully itemized, legible statement or repair order indicating any diagnosis made, and all work performed on the motor vehicle including, but not limited to, a general description of the problem reported by the consumer or an identification of the defect or condition, parts and labor, the date and the odometer reading when the motor vehicle was submitted for examination or repair, and the date when the repair or examination was completed.
- Upon request from the consumer, the manufacturer, or the authorized service agent of the manufacturer, shall provide a copy of either or both of the following:
- Any report or printout of any diagnostic computer operation compiled by the manufacturer or authorized service agent regarding an inspection or diagnosis of the motor vehicle.
- A copy of any technical service bulletin issued by the manufacturer regarding the year and model of the motor vehicle as it pertains to any material, feature, component, or the performance of the motor vehicle.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.4 Nonconformity of motor vehicles.
- After three attempts have been made to repair the same nonconformity that substantially impairs the motor vehicle, or after one attempt to repair a nonconformity that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, the consumer may give written notification, which shall be by certified or registered mail or by overnight service, to the manufacturer of the need to repair the nonconformity in order to allow the manufacturer a final attempt to cure the nonconformity. The manufacturer shall, within ten days after receipt of such notification, notify and provide the consumer with the opportunity to have the vehicle repaired at a reasonably accessible repair facility and after delivery of the vehicle to the designated repair facility by the consumer, the manufacturer shall, within ten days, conform the motor vehicle to the warranty. If the manufacturer fails to notify and provide the consumer with the opportunity to have the vehicle repaired at a reasonably accessible repair facility or perform the repairs within the time periods prescribed in this subsection, the requirement that the manufacturer be given a final attempt to cure the nonconformity does not apply. After twenty or more cumulative days when the motor vehicle has been out of service by reason of repair of one or more nonconformities, the consumer may give written notification to the manufacturer which shall be by certified or registered mail or by overnight service. Commencing upon the date such notification is received, the manufacturer has ten cumulative days when the vehicle has been out of service by reason of repair of one or more nonconformities to conform the motor vehicle to the warranty.
- If the manufacturer, or its authorized service agent, has not conformed the motor vehicle to the warranty by repairing or correcting one or more nonconformities that substantially impair the motor vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer shall, within forty days of receipt of payment by the manufacturer of a reasonable offset for use by the consumer, replace the motor vehicle with a replacement motor vehicle acceptable to the consumer, or repurchase the motor vehicle from the consumer or lessor and refund to the consumer or lessor the full purchase or lease price, less a reasonable offset for use. The replacement or refund shall include payment of all collateral and reasonably incurred incidental charges. The consumer has an unconditional right to choose a refund rather than a replacement. If the consumer elects to receive a refund, and the refund exceeds the amount of the payment for a reasonable offset for use, the requirement that the consumer pay the reasonable offset for use in advance does not apply, and the manufacturer shall deduct that amount from the refund due to the consumer. If the consumer elects a replacement motor vehicle, the manufacturer shall provide the consumer a substitute motor vehicle to use until such time as the replacement vehicle is delivered to the consumer. At the time of the refund or replacement, the consumer, lienholder, or lessor shall furnish to the manufacturer clear title to and possession of the original motor vehicle. Refunds shall be made to the consumer and lien holder of record, if any, as their interests appear. If applicable, refunds shall be made to the lessor and lessee as follows: the lessee shall receive the lessee’s cost less a reasonable offset for use, and the lessor shall receive the lease price less the aggregate deposit and rental payments previously paid to the lessor for the leased vehicle. If it is determined that the lessee is entitled to a refund pursuant to this chapter, the consumer’s lease agreement with the lessor is terminated upon payment of the refund and no penalty for early termination shall be assessed. The department of revenue and finance shall refund to the manufacturer any use tax which the manufacturer refunded to the consumer, lessee, or lessor under this section, if the manufacturer provides to the department of revenue and finance a written request for a refund and evidence that the use tax was paid when the vehicle was purchased and that the manufacturer refunded the use tax to the consumer, lessee, or lessor.
- It is presumed that a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to conform a motor vehicle to the warranty if, during the Iowa lemon law rights period, any of the following occur:
- The same nonconformity that substantially impairs the motor vehicle has been subject to examination or repair at least three times by the manufacturer or its authorized service agent, plus a final attempt by the manufacturer to repair the motor vehicle if undertaken as provided for in subsection 1, and such nonconformity continues to exist.
- A nonconformity that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury has been subject to examination or repair at least one time by the manufacturer or its authorized service agent, plus a final attempt by the manufacturer to repair the motor vehicle if undertaken as provided for in subsection 1, and such nonconformity continues to exist.
- The motor vehicle has been out of service by reason of repair by the manufacturer, or its authorized service agent, of one or more nonconformities that substantially impair the motor vehicle for a cumulative total of thirty or more days, exclusive of down time for routine maintenance prescribed by the owner’s manual. The thirty-day period may be extended by any period of time during which repair services are not available to the consumer because of war, invasion, strike, fire, flood, or natural disaster. The terms of this subsection shall be extended for a period of up to two years after the date of the original delivery of a motor vehicle to a consumer, or the first twenty-four thousand miles of operation attributable to a consumer, whichever occurs first, if a nonconformity has been reported but has not been cured by the manufacturer, or its authorized service agent, before the expiration of the lemon law rights period.
- manufacturer, or its authorized service agent, shall not refuse to examine or repair any nonconformity for the purpose of avoiding liability under this chapter.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.5 Affirmative defenses.
- The alleged nonconformity or nonconformities do not substantially impair the motor vehicle.
- A nonconformity is the result of an accident, abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modification or alteration of the motor vehicle by a person other than the manufacturer or its authorized service agent.
- The claim by the consumer was not filed in good faith.
- Any other defense allowed by law which may be raised against the claim.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.6 Informal dispute settlement procedures—operations and certification.
- At the time of the consumer’s purchase or lease of the vehicle, a manufacturer who has established a program certified pursuant to this section shall, at a minimum, clearly and conspicuously disclose to the consumer in written materials accompanying the vehicle how and where to file a claim with the program.
- A certified program shall be funded and competently staffed at a level sufficient to ensure fair and expeditious resolution of all disputes, and shall not charge consumers any fee for use of the program. The manufacturer shall take all steps necessary to ensure that a certified program and its staff and decision makers are sufficiently insulated from the manufacturer so that the performance of the staff and the decisions of the decision makers are not influenced by the manufacturer. Such steps, at a minimum, shall ensure that the manufacturer does not make decisions on whether a consumer’s dispute proceeds to the decision maker. Staff and decision makers of a certified program shall be trained in the provisions of this chapter and rules adopted under this chapter.
- A certified program shall allow an oral presentation by a party, or by a party’s employee, agent, or representative. Within five days following the consumer’s notification to the certified program of the dispute, the program shall inform each party of their right to make an oral presentation. Meetings of a certified program to hear and decide disputes shall be open to observers, including either party to the dispute, on reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms.
- A certified program shall render a decision no later than sixty days from the day of the consumer’s notification of the dispute, provided that a significant number of decisions are rendered within forty days. For the purposes of this section, notification is deemed to have occurred when a certified program has received the consumer’s name and address; the current date and the date of the original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer; the year, make, model, and identification number of the motor vehicle; and a description of the nonconformity. If the consumer has not previously notified the manufacturer of the nonconformity, the sixty-day period is extended for an additional seven days.
- A certified program shall, in rendering decisions, take into account the provisions of this chapter and all legal and equitable factors germane to a fair and just decision. The decision shall disclose to the consumer and the manufacturer the reasons for the decision, and the manufacturer’s required actions, if applicable. If the decision is in favor of the consumer, the consumer shall have up to twenty-five days from the date of receipt of the certified program’s decision to indicate acceptance of the decision. The decision shall prescribe a reasonable period of time, not to exceed thirty days from the date the consumer notifies the manufacturer of acceptance of the decision, within which the manufacturer must fulfill the terms of the decision. If the manufacturer has had a reasonable number of attempts to conform a motor vehicle to the warranty as set forth in section 322G.4, subsection 3, including a final attempt by the manufacturer to repair the motor vehicle, if undertaken as provided for in section 322G.4, subsection 1, and the consumer is entitled to a replacement vehicle or a refund under section 322G.4, subsection 2, the decision shall be limited to relief as allowed under section 322G.4, subsection 2. In an action brought by a consumer under this chapter, the decision of a certified program is admissible in evidence.
- A certified program shall establish written procedures which explain operation of the certified program. Copies of the written procedures shall be made available to any person upon request and shall be sent to the consumer upon notification of the dispute.
- A certified program shall retain all records for each dispute for at least four years after the final disposition of the dispute. A certified program shall have an independent audit conducted annually to determine whether the manufacturer and its performance and the program and its implementation are in compliance with this chapter. All records for each dispute shall be available for the audit. Such audit, upon completion, shall be forwarded to the attorney general.
- Any manufacturer licensed to sell motor vehicles in this state may apply to the attorney general for certification of its program. A manufacturer seeking certification of its program in this state shall submit to the attorney general an application for certification on a form prescribed by the attorney general.
- A program certified in this state or a program established by a manufacturer applying for certification in this state shall submit to the attorney general a copy of each settlement approved by the program or decision made by the decision maker within thirty days after the settlement is reached or the decision is rendered. The decision or settlement shall contain information prescribed by the attorney general.
- The attorney general shall review the operations of any certified program at least once annually. The attorney general shall prepare annual and periodic reports evaluating the operation of certified programs serving consumers in this state or programs established by motor vehicle manufacturers applying for certification in this state. The reports shall indicate whether certification should be granted, renewed, denied, or revoked.
- If a manufacturer has established a program which the attorney general has certified as substantially complying with the provisions of and the rules adopted under this chapter, and has informed the consumer how and where to file a claim with the program pursuant to subsection 1, the provisions of section 322G.4, subsection 2, do not apply to any consumer who has not first resorted to the program.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.7 Informal dispute settlement procedure—certification uniformity.
- Establishing a central depository for copies of all applications and accompanying materials submitted by manufacturers for certification, and all reports prepared, notices issued, and determinations made by the attorney general under section 322G.6.
- Sharing and exchanging information, documents, and records pertaining to program operations.
- Sharing personnel to perform joint reviews, surveys, and investigations of program operations.
- Preparing joint reports evaluating program operations.
- Granting joint certifications and certification renewals.
- Issuing joint denials or revocations of certification.
- Holding a joint administrative hearing.
- Formulating, in accordance with chapter 17A, the administrative procedure Act, rules or proposed rules on matters such as guidelines, forms, statements of policy, interpretative opinions, and any other information necessary to implement section 322G.6.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.8 Consumer remedies.
- If a consumer resorts to a manufacturer’s certified program and a decision is not rendered within the time periods allowed in this chapter, or a manufacturer has no certified program and the consumer has notified the manufacturer pursuant to section 322G.4, subsection 1, the consumer may file an action in district court under this chapter within one year from the expiration of the Iowa lemon law rights period or an extension of the period pursuant to section 322G.4, subsection 3.
- If a consumer resorts to a manufacturer’s certified program and is not satisfied with the performance of the manufacturer as ordered in the decision, or the manufacturer does not perform as directed by the decision within the time period specified in the decision, the consumer may file an action in district court under this chapter within six months after the date prescribed in the decision by which the manufacturer must fulfill the terms of the decision. If the consumer declines to accept the decision of the manufacturer’s certified program, the consumer may appeal the decision pursuant to subsection 4. For purposes of this subsection, “not satisfied with the performance of the decision” means, following the consumer’s acceptance of the decision, the consumer indicates that the manufacturer failed to comply with the terms of the decision within the time specified in the decision or failed to cure the nonconformity within the time specified in the decision if further repairs were ordered.
- Icertified program’s decision is final unless appealed by either party. A petition to the district court to appeal a decision must be made within fifty days after receipt of the decision or within twenty-five days from the date the consumer indicates acceptance of the decision to the manufacturer, whichever occurs first. Within seven days after the petition has been filed, the appealing party must send, by certified, registered, or express mail, a copy of the petition to the attorney general. If the attorney general receives no notice of the petition within sixty days after the manufacturer’s receipt of a decision in favor of the consumer, and the consumer has indicated acceptance of the decision within the twenty-five days of receipt of the decision, but the manufacturer has neither complied with, nor petitioned to appeal the decision, the attorney general may apply to the court to impose a fine up to one thousand dollars per day against the manufacturer until the amount stands at twice the purchase price of the motor vehicle, unless the manufacturer provides clear and convincing evidence that the delay or failure was beyond its control or was acceptable to the consumer as evidenced by a written statement signed by the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to provide such evidence or fails to pay the fine, the attorney general shall initiate proceedings against the manufacturer for failure to pay the fine. The proceeds from the fine imposed shall be placed in the attorney general’s motor vehicle fraud and odometer law enforcement fund for implementation and enforcement of this chapter.
- A certified program’s decision is final unless appealed by either party. A petition to the district court to appeal a decision must be made within fifty days after receipt of the decision or within twenty-five days from the date the consumer indicates acceptance of the decision to the manufacturer, whichever occurs first. Within seven days after the petition has been filed, the appealing party must send, by certified, registered, or express mail, a copy of the petition to the attorney general. If the attorney general receives no notice of the petition within sixty days after the manufacturer’s receipt of a decision in favor of the consumer, and the consumer has indicated acceptance of the decision within the twenty-five days of receipt of the decision, but the manufacturer has neither complied with, nor petitioned to appeal the decision, the attorney general may apply to the court to impose a fine up to one thousand dollars per day against the manufacturer until the amount stands at twice the purchase price of the motor vehicle, unless the manufacturer provides clear and convincing evidence that the delay or failure was beyond its control or was acceptable to the consumer as evidenced by a written statement signed by the consumer. If the manufacturer fails to provide such evidence or fails to pay the fine, the attorney general shall initiate proceedings against the manufacturer for failure to pay the fine. The proceeds from the fine imposed shall be placed in the attorney general’s motor vehicle fraud and odometer law enforcement fund for implementation and enforcement of this chapter.
- If the manufacturer fails to comply with a decision which has been timely accepted by the consumer or fails to file a timely petition for appeal, the court shall affirm the board’s decision upon application by the consumer.
- An appeal of a decision by a certified program to the court by a consumer or a manufacturer shall be tried de novo, and may be based upon stipulated facts. In a written petition to appeal a decision by the board, the appealing party must state the action requested and the grounds relied upon for appeal.
- If a decision of the certified program in favor of the consumer is affirmed or upheld by the court, recovery by the consumer shall include the pecuniary value of the award, including relief the consumer is entitled to under section 322G.4, subsection 2, attorney’s fees incurred in obtaining confirmation of the award, and all costs and continuing damages in an amount of twenty-five dollars per day for all days beyond the twenty-five-day period following the manufacturer’s receipt of the consumer’s acceptance of the certified program’s decision. If a court determines that a manufacturer filed a petition for appeal to be tried de novo in bad faith or brought such an appeal solely for the purpose of harassment, the court shall double, and may triple, the amount of the total award, after consideration of all circumstances.
- Appellate review of a court decision in favor of the consumer may be conditioned upon payment by the manufacturer of the consumer’s attorney’s fees and giving security for costs and expenses resulting from the review period.
- This chapter does not prohibit a consumer from pursuing other rights or remedies under any other law.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.9 Compliance and disciplinary action.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.10 Unfair or deceptive trade practice.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.11 Dealer liability.
Sec. 3, Section 322G12, Code 1999, is amended to read as follows: Iowa Lemon law 322G.12 Resale of returned vehicles.
Sec. 4. EFFECTIVE DATE. This Act takes effect January 1, 2001. Iowa Lemon law 322G.13 Certain agreements void.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.14 Rulemaking authority.
- The attorney general shall adopt rules as necessary to implement this chapter.
- In prescribing rules and forms under this chapter, the attorney general may cooperate with agencies that perform similar functions in other states with a view to effectuating the policy of this chapter to achieve maximum uniformity in the form and content of certification, regulation, and procedural evaluation of manufacturer-established programs, required record keeping, required reporting wherever practicable, and required notices to consumers.
Iowa Lemon law 322G.15 Applicability.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a Federal Law that protects the buyer of any product which costs more than $25 and comes with an express written warranty. This law applies to any product that you buy that does not perform as it should.
Your car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its expected dependability and safety. Accordingly, you are entitled to expect an automobile properly constructed and regulated to provide reasonably safe, trouble-free, and dependable transportation – regardless of the exact make and model you bought. Unfortunately, sometimes these principles do not hold true and defects arise in automobiles. Although one defect is not actionable, repeated defects are as there exists a generally accepted rule that unsuccessful repair efforts render the warrantor liable. Simply put, there comes a time when “enough is enough” – when after having to take your car into the shop for repairs an inordinate number of times and experiencing all of the attendant inconvenience, you are entitled to say, ‘That’s all,’ and revoke, notwithstanding the seller’s repeated good faith efforts to fix the car. The rationale behind these basic principles is clear: once your faith in the vehicle is shaken, the vehicle loses its real value to you and becomes an instrument whose integrity is impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension. The question thus becomes when is “enough”?
As you know, enough is never enough from your warrantor’s point of view and you should simply continue to have your defective vehicle repaired – time and time again. However, you are not required to allow a warrantor to tinker with your vehicle indefinitely in the hope that it may eventually be fixed. Rather, you are entitled to expect your vehicle to be repaired within a reasonable opportunity. To this end, both the federal Moss Warranty Act, and the various state “lemon laws,” require repairs to your vehicle be performed within a reasonable opportunity.
Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a warrantor should perform adequate repairs in at least two, and possibly three, attempts to correct a particular defect. Further, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s reasonableness requirement applies to your vehicle as a whole rather than to each individual defect that arises. Although most of the Lemon Laws vary from state to state, each individual law usually require a warrantor to cure a specific defect within four to five attempts or the automobile as a whole within thirty days. If the warrantor fails to meet this obligation, most of the lemon laws provide for a full refund or new replacement vehicle. Further, this reasonable number of attempts/reasonable opportunity standard, whether it be that of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or that of the Lemon Laws, is akin to strict liability – once this threshold has been met, the continued existence of a defect is irrelevant and you are still entitled to relief.
One of the most important parts of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is its fee shifting provision. This provision provides that you may recover the attorney fees incurred in the prosecution of your case if you are successful – independent of how much you actually win. That rational behind this fee shifting provision is to twofold: (1) to ensure you will be able to vindicate your rights without having to expend large sums on attorney’s fees and (2) because automobile manufacturers are able to write off all expenses of defense as a legitimate business expense, whereas you, the average consumer, obviously does not have that kind of economic staying power. Most of the Lemon Laws contain similar fee shifting provisions.
You may also derive additional warranty rights from the Uniform Commercial Code; however, the Code does not allow you in most states to recover your attorney fees and is also not as consumer friendly as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or the various state lemon laws.
The narrative information on Magnuson-Moss, UCC and Iowa lemon laws on these pages is provided by Marshall Meyers, attorney.
Uniform Commercial Code Summary
The Uniform Commercial Code or UCC has been enacted in all 50 states and some of the territories of the United States. It is the primary source of law in all contracts dealing with the sale of products. The TARR refers to Tender, Acceptance, Rejection, Revocation and applies to different aspects of the consumer’s “relationship” with the purchased goods.
TENDER – The tender provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code contained in Section2-601 provide that the buyer is entitled to reject any goods that fail in any respect to conform to the contract. Unfortunately, new cars are often technically complex and their innermost workings are beyond the understanding of the average new car buyer. The buyer, therefore, does not know whether the goods are then conforming.
ACCEPTANCE – The new car buyer accepts the goods believing and expecting that the manufacturer will repair any problem he has with the goods under the warranty.
REJECTION – The new car buyer may discover a problem with the vehicle within the first few miles of his purchase. This would allow the new car buyer to reject the goods. If the new car buyer discovers a defect in the car within a reasonable time to inspect the vehicle, he may reject the vehicle. This period is not defined. On the one hand, the buyer must be given a reasonable time to inspect and that reasonable time to inspect will be held as an acceptance of the vehicle. The Courts will decide this reasonable time to inspect based on the knowledge and experience of the buyer, the difficulty in discovering the defect, and the opportunity to discover the defect. The following is an example of a case of rejection: Mr. Zabriskie purchase a new 1966 Chevrolet Biscayne. After picking up the car on Friday evening, while en route to his home 2.5 miles away, and within 7/10ths of a mile from the dealership, the car stalled and stalled again within 15 feet. Thereafter, the car would only drive in low gear. The buyer rejected the vehicle and stopped payment on his check. The dealer contended that the buyer could not reject the car because he had driven it around the block and that was his reasonable opportunity to inspect. The New Jersey Court said;
To the layman, the complicated mechanisms of today’s automobile are a complete mystery. To have the automobile inspected by someone with sufficient expertise to disassemble the vehicle in order the discover latent defects before the contract is signed, is assuredly impossible and highly impractical. Consequently, the first few miles of driving become even more significant to the excited new car buyer. This is the buyer’s first reasonable opportunity to enjoy his new vehicle to see if it conforms to what it was represented to be and whether he is getting what he bargained for. How long the buyer may drive the new car under the guise of inspection of new goods is not an issue in the present case because 7/10th of a mile is clearly within the ambit of a reasonable opportunity to inspect. Zabriskie Chevrolet, Inc. v. Smith, 240 A. 2d 195(1968)
It is suggested that Courts will tend to excuse use by consumers if possible.
REVOCATION – What happens when the consumer has used the new car for a lengthy period of time? This is the typical lemon car case. The UCC provides that a buyer may revoke his acceptance of goods whose non-conformity substantially impairs the value of the goods to him when he has accepted the goods without discovery of a non-conformity because it was difficult to discover or if he was assured that non-conformities would be repaired. Of course, the average new car buyer does not learn of the nonconformity until hundreds of thousands of miles later. And because quality is job one, and manufacturers are competing on the basis of their warranties, the consumer always is assured that any nonconformities he does discover will be remedied. What is a noncomformity substantially impairing the value of the vehicle?
- A nonconformity may include a number of relatively minor defects whose cumulative total adds up to a substantial impairment. This is the “Shake Faith” Doctrine first stated in the Zabrisikie case. “For a majority of people the purchase of a new car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its dependability and safety. Once their faith is shaken, the vehicle loses not only its real value in their eyes, but becomes an instrument whose integrity is substantially impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension”.
- A substantial nonconformity may include a failure or refusal to repair the goods under the warranty. In Durfee V. Rod Baxter Imports, the Minnesota Court held that the Saab owner that was plagued by a series of annoying minor defects and stalling, which were never repaired after a number of attempts, could revoke, “if repairs are not successfully undertaken within a reasonable time”, the consumer may elect to revoke.
- Substantial Non Conformity and Lemon Laws often define what may be considered a substantial impairment. These definitions have been successfully used to flesh out the substantial impairment in the UCC.
Additional narrative information on Magnusson-Moss, UCC and Iowa lemon laws on these pages is provided by T. Michael Flinn, attorney.