Rhode Island Lemon Law Chapter 31-5.2 of Rhode Island Code
Rhode Island Lemon Law SECTION 31-5.2-1
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-1Definitions.
- “Consumer” means a buyer, other than for purposes of resale, of a motor vehicle, any person to whom that motor vehicle is transferred for the same purposes during the duration of any express or implied warranty applicable to that motor vehicle, and any other person entitled by the terms of that warranty to enforce its obligations.
- “Dealer” means any person engaged in the business of selling, offering to sell, soliciting, or advertising the sale of new motor vehicles.
- “Lease price” means the aggregate of:
- 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 sales taxes not otherwise included as collateral charges, paid by the lessor when the vehicle was initially purchased.
- An amount equal to five percent (5%) of the lessor’s actual purchase costs.
- “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 such motor vehicle or any consumer who leases a motor vehicle pursuant to a lease-purchase agreement.
- “Lessee cost” means the aggregate deposit and rental payments previously paid to the lessor for the leased vehicle.
- “Lessor” means a person who holds title to a motor vehicle leased to a lessee under a written lease agreement or who holds the lessor’s rights under such agreement.
- “Manufacturer” means any person, partnership, firm, association, corporation, or trust, resident or nonresident, which is engaged in the business of manufacturing or assembling new motor vehicles, or which is engaged in the business of importing new motor vehicles which are manufactured or assembled outside of the United States.
- “Motor vehicle” or “vehicle” means an automobile, truck, motorcycle, or van having a registered gross vehicle weight of less than ten thousand pounds (10,000 lbs.), sold, leased, or replaced by a dealer or manufacturer after May 11, 1984, except that it shall not include a motorized camper as defined in § 31-1-3(q).
- “Nonconformity” means any specific or generic defect or malfunction, or any concurrent combination of such defects or malfunctions, that substantially impairs the use, market value, or safety of a motor vehicle.
- “Term of protection” means one year or fifteen thousand (15,000) miles of use from the date of original delivery of a new motor vehicle to the consumer, whichever comes first; or, in the case of a replacement vehicle provided by a manufacturer to a consumer under this chapter, one year or fifteen thousand (15,000) miles from the date of delivery to the consumer of that replacement vehicle, whichever comes first.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-2Manufacturers’ obligation to fulfill warranties.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-3Replacement of nonconforming vehicle.
- If the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer or lessor does not conform the motor vehicle to any applicable express or implied warranty by curing any nonconformity after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer shall accept return of the vehicle from the consumer or lessee and, at the consumer’s or lessee’s option, refund the full contract price or lease price of the vehicle including all credits and allowances for any trade-in vehicle, less a reasonable allowance for use, or replace it with a comparable new motor vehicle in good working order. A manufacturer replacing a motor vehicle shall have thirty (30) calendar days from the date of return of the motor vehicle under the provisions of this chapter to deliver a comparable motor vehicle. If, within that thirty (30) days, no comparable motor vehicle has been delivered, the manufacturer shall refund the full contract price or lease price less a reasonable allowance for use. In instances in which a vehicle is replaced by a manufacturer under the provisions of this chapter, the manufacturer shall reimburse the consumer or lessee for any fees for the transfer of registration or any sales tax incurred by the consumer or lessee as a result of that replacement. In instances in which a vehicle which was financed by the manufacturer or its subsidiary or agent is replaced under the provisions of this chapter, the manufacturer, subsidiary, or agent shall not require the consumer or lessee to enter into any refinancing agreement with an interest rate or other financial terms which are less favorable to the consumer or lessee than those stated in the original financing agreement. In instances in which a refund is tendered under the provisions of this chapter, the manufacturer shall also reimburse the consumer or lessee for incidental costs including sales tax, registration fee, finance charges, and any cost of nonremovable options added by an authorized dealer or lessor. Whenever a vehicle is replaced or refunded under the provisions of this chapter, in instances in which towing services and rental vehicles of comparable year and size were not made available at no cost to the consumer or lessee, the manufacturer shall also reimburse the consumer or lessee for towing and reasonable rental costs that were a direct result of vehicle nonconformity. Refunds shall be made to the consumer or lessee and to the lienholder, if any, as their interests may appear. A reasonable allowance for use shall be obtained by multiplying the total contract price or lessee cost of the vehicle by a fraction having as its denominator one hundred thousand (100,000) and having as its numerator the number of miles that the vehicle travelled prior to the consumer’s first report of the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent, or its dealer or lessor plus the number of miles that it travelled during any subsequent period when the vehicle was not out of service by reason of repair. A consumer or lessee shall have the option of retaining the use of any vehicle returned under the provisions of this chapter until such time as the consumer or lessee has been tendered a full refund or replacement vehicle acceptable to the consumer or lessee. The use of any vehicle retained by a consumer or lessee after its return to a manufacturer under the provisions of this chapter shall, in instances in which a refund is tendered, be reflected in the above mentioned reasonable allowance for use.
- If applicable, refunds shall be made to the lessor and lessee as their interests may appear on the records of ownership as follows: the lessee shall receive the lessee cost 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 shall be terminated upon payment of the refund and no penalty for early termination shall be assessed.
SECTION 31-5.2-4 § Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-4Affirmative defenses.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-5Time allowed for correction of nonconformity.
- A reasonable number of attempts shall be presumed to have been undertaken to conform a motor vehicle to any applicable express or implied warranties if:
- the same nonconformity has been subject to repair four (4) or more times by the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers or lessors within the term of protection, but the nonconformity continues to exist or the nonconformity has recurred within the term of protection, or
- the vehicle is out of service by reason of the repair of any nonconformity for a cumulative total of thirty (30) or more calendar days during the term of protection; provided, however, that the manufacturer shall be afforded one additional opportunity, not to exceed seven (7) calendar days, to cure any nonconformity arising during the term of protection, notwithstanding the fact that the additional opportunity to cure commences after the term of protection.
- The additional opportunity to cure shall commence on the day the manufacturer first knows or should have known that the limits specified in subsection (a)(1) or (a)(2) have been met or exceeded. The term of protection, the thirty (30) calendar day period specified in subsection (a)(2) and the additional opportunity to cure shall be extended by any period of time during which repair services are not available to the consumer or lessee as a direct result of a war, invasion, fire, flood or other natural disaster. The term of protection, the thirty (30) calendar day period and the additional opportunity to cure shall also be extended by that period of time during which repair services are not available as a direct result of a strike; provided, however, that the manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer or lessor makes provision for the free use of a vehicle of comparable year and size by any consumer or lessee whose vehicle is out of service by reason of repair during a strike. The burden shall be on the manufacturer to show that any event claimed as a reason for an extension under the provisions of this section was the direct cause for the failure of the manufacturer, its agent or lessor, or its authorized dealer to cure any nonconformity during the time of that event. Extensions for concurrent events shall not be cumulative.
SECTION 31-5.2-6 § Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-6Rights and remedies cumulative.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-7Informal dispute settlement procedures.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-8Waiver of rights prohibited.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-9Disclosure of nonconformity prior to resale.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-10Cause of action.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-11Attorney’s fees.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-12Commencement of action.
§ Rhode Island Lemon Law 31-5.2-13Deceptive trade practice.
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 Rhode Island 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 noncomformities he does discover will be remedied. What is a noncomformity substantially impairing the value of the vehicle?
- A noncomformity 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 noncomformity 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 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 Rhode Island lemon laws on these pages is provided by T. Michael Flinn, attorney.