Lemon Law

Updated February 2017   Fact Sheet PDF


Introduction

Any consumer who buys or leases and then registers a new motor vehicle in the State of Arkansas is covered by the Lemon Law. The consumer is protected during the term of the manufacturer's warranty either for up to two years after the original delivery date of the vehicle or for the first 24,000 miles, whichever occurs last. If the vehicle is transferred to someone else during this period, the owner or person leasing the vehicle is covered under the Lemon Law.

 

The Lemon Law does not cover the living quarters of mobile homes. The Lemon Law does not cover vehicles over 10,000 pounds’ gross vehicle weight rating but covers motor homes over 10,000 pounds’ gross vehicle weight rating.

 

Is Your Vehicle a Lemon?

The law creates what is known in legal terminology as a presumption: the Lemon Law presumes that you are entitled to a refund or replacement if the manufacturer or its dealer has made a certain number of unsuccessful attempts to repair nonconformities that substantially impair the use, value, or safety of your vehicle (four or more repair attempts or more than 30 days out of service).

 

However, there is an exception (or in legal terminology, the presumption is rebuttable): if the manufacturer can prove that it has not had a reasonable opportunity to repair your car, you may not be entitled to a refund or replacement vehicle. For example, if the manufacturer can prove that the number of repair attempts was not unreasonable because you did not follow the terms of the warranty, or some event (such as a labor strike) prevented timely repairs, the Lemon Law might not help you. In addition, if you abused the car or damaged it in an accident, the Lemon Law might not apply.

 

Dangerously defective vehicles may be returned in an even shorter period of time. If the problem involves a defect that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury (such as brake failure or a steering wheel that locks) and the problem is not promptly corrected after the second attempt, the Lemon Law may apply.

 

Repairs

Getting Your Vehicle Repaired

It is very important that you immediately report any defect or condition directly to the manufacturer or to the dealer. It is also important that you keep all repair receipts and a complete record of all contacts with the manufacturer and dealer.

 

You have the right to receive a dated, detailed statement each time the vehicle is returned for repair. This statement should include any charges for parts and labor, a general description of the problem, the odometer readings both at the time you brought the vehicle in for repair and when you picked up the car, as well as a list of all work performed. It should also state the date the vehicle was brought in for repair and the date you picked up the vehicle. Be sure you are given these statements (it is the law) and that you keep them on file.

 

Who Pays?

Most manufacturers' warranties on purchased vehicles cover repairs for at least either the first year following the original delivery date or the first 12,000 miles, whichever comes first.

 

If repairs are needed after your warranty has ended, you must pay for the repairs. Check your warranty booklet to find out the details of your coverage. If you are leasing a vehicle, check your leasing contract to find out who is responsible for repair bills. Repair costs to cure defects that occurred while under the warranty coverage should be covered by your warranty but may be reimbursed if later proven to be a "lemon.” Keep receipts.

 

How Long Should the Repair Take?

The Lemon Law allows the manufacturer a "reasonable number of attempts" to repair or correct the defect. A "reasonable number" means three repair attempts for the same defect or a total of 30 cumulative days out of service because of a series of defects or repairs. Also, a "reasonable number of attempts to repair" may consist of five or more attempts, on separate occasions, to repair varying nonconformities that together substantially impair the use and value of your vehicle.

 

Final Repair Attempt

Before you can file a claim under the Lemon Law, you must give the manufacturer one final chance to repair the defect. You must send a letter to the manufacturer (not the dealer) by certified mail, return receipt requested, stating that you may have a claim and that you are giving the manufacturer one last chance to re­pair the defect. A sample letter is shown at the end of this guide.

 

This letter should be mailed after the third unsuccessful repair at­tempt. Consult your owner's manual for address information. Keep a photocopy of the letter for your records and your certified mail receipt as proof that the manufac­turer received the letter.

 

After receiving your letter, the manufacturer has 10 calendar days to schedule a final repair attempt. If the manufacturer does not schedule the final repair attempt timely, or if the defect is not repaired within 10 days after the scheduled repair attempt, you have a right to demand either a replacement vehicle or a refund. You must maintain a copy of your letter and the return receipt verification before you can file a claim under the Lemon Law.

 

Replacements and Refunds

Replacements

The manufacturer may offer to replace your original vehicle; however, you do not have to accept the offer. You may say no and demand a refund.

 

If you do accept a replacement vehicle and the original vehicle was financed by the manufacturer or its subsidiary or agent, the manufacturer must make sure you are not required to enter any refinancing agreement that would create financial obligations on you beyond those of the original financing agreement. It is still up to you to have the title and registration transferred to your new vehicle.

 

Refunds: Purchased Vehicles

If you choose to receive a refund, you will receive the full purchase price of your original motor vehicle minus a "reasonable allowance for vehicle use."

 

The full refund includes, but is not limited to:

  • credits and allowances for any trade-in vehicle
  • costs of any options and other modifications added by the manufacturer or its authorized dealer
  • costs of sales tax
  • costs of license, registration, and finance charges
  • charges for renting a similar vehicle while the original vehicle was out of service because of the defect
  • expert fees
  • charges for extended warranty coverage provided by the manufacturer or its subsidiary or agent
 

"The reasonable allowance for vehicle use" equals the purchase price multiplied by the mileage (at the time the vehicle was first brought to the dealer or manufacturer for repair of the defect) divided by 120,000 miles. For example, the reasonable allowance for a $12,000 vehicle with 10,000 miles would be calculated as:

 

12,000 x 10,000 = 120,000,000

120,000,000 ÷ 120,000 = 1,000

 

In this example, the reasonable allowance for vehicle use is $1,000.

 

You may also be charged for any physical damage the vehicle has sustained.

 

Refunds: Leased Vehicles

If your vehicle is leased, you can receive a full refund for any leasing fees less a reasonable allowance for vehicle use. Under the Lemon Law, your lease agreement ends when you return the vehicle. You cannot be charged any penalties for ending the lease early.

 

Enforcing Your Rights

If the manufacturer does not accept your Lemon Law claim and will not refund your money or replace your vehicle, if the manufacturer provides notice to you that the program is available, and if the program is certified by the Arkansas Attorney General, you must file for a hearing through the manufacturer's informal dispute settlement program before you can use the Lemon Law in court.

 

You will not have to pay any fee to use the settlement program. Usually, you submit your complaint in writing to the program with copies for your records. Generally, your case must be decided within 40 days after the time your complaint is received. You may accept or reject the program's decision. If you accept, the manufacturer must also accept and has 30 days to comply. There is no appeal process for the manufacturer.

 

If you do not agree with the program's decision, you can reject it and go to court to assert your right to a replacement, refund, or other relief. If you go to court, the judge may consider the program's decision in deciding your case.

 

You are required to use the informal dispute program only if you want to use the Lemon Law's standard of "reasonable attempts to repair.” You may have other causes of action or rights outside of the Lemon Law. It is a good idea to consult an attorney regarding these options.

 

If you win in the Manufacturer's Informal Dispute Procedure or if you win in court, you can receive the following:

  • refund of vehicle purchase price or leasing costs, including sales tax
  • manufacturer or dealer installed accessories
  • finance charges (if any)
  • reasonable attorney's fees
  • reasonable costs of a rental vehicle while your vehicle is out of service because of the defect

 

Can the Manufacturer Resell or Re-Lease a “Lemon” Vehicle?

Yes, but the dealer or leasing company must give the consumer who buys such a vehicle a written notice stating that the vehicle was "returned to the manufacturer because of a nonconformity not cured within a reasonable time."

 

On occasion, vehicles are repurchased by the manufacturer before there is any action under the Lemon Law. The written notice is not necessarily given to consumers who purchase these types of "buy back" vehicles. So, if you are purchasing a used vehicle, ask if it was repurchased by the manufacturer because it was involved in a Lemon Law dispute.

 

In Review

If your vehicle is defective:

  • give your dealer an opportunity to repair your vehicle
  • keep all repair receipts and a complete record of all contacts with the manufacturer or dealer
 

If substantial defects continue after three repair attempts, give the Manufacturer a written notice of its last chance to repair the defect.

 

If the substantial defect is not scheduled for repairs within 10 days after the manufacturer receives the written notice, or if repairs are not completed within 10 days after delivery for the final repair attempt, demand either a refund or a new vehicle.

 

If the Manufacturer does not agree that you are entitled to a refund under the Lemon Law:

  • file for dispute resolution through the manufacturer's informal dispute resolution system
  • contact an attorney regarding civil action in court if you are still dissatisfied

 

Sample Letter to the Manufacturer

Send this letter by certified mail—return receipt requested.

 

Your Name Your Address

Your Telephone Number

 

Name of Manufacturer

Manufacturer's Address

 

Dear Sir or Madame:

 

I believe that my [passenger vehicle/motor home] is a "lemon" under the Arkansas New Motor Vehicle Quality Assurance Act (Act 297 of 1993). I am hereby making a written demand for relief under this Act.

 

I [purchased/leased] a [make, model, year of vehicle] on [date] from [name of dealership] in [city, state]. Since I bought this vehicle I have had to return it to the dealership a total of [number of times the vehicle was returned to an authorized dealer for repairs] times. My vehicle has been out of service for repairs for a total of [total number of calendar days the vehicle has been out of service being repaired] calendar days.

 

My vehicle has been in [authorized dealership] on the following dates for repair of the following defects: [date in/out, list problems, etc. etc.]

 

I am currently having the following problems with my vehicle: [list all problems the vehicle currently has].

 

Since these defects substantially impair the use, value, or safety of my vehicle, I am hereby allowing you one final opportunity to repair my vehicle. If repairs are not scheduled within 10 days of receipt of this letter or completed within 10 days from delivery of the vehicle to you for repair, I am entitled to a replacement vehicle acceptable to me or a refund calculated in accordance with the Arkansas New Motor Vehicle Quality Assurance Act.

 

I look forward to hearing from you soon. You can reach me during the day at [phone number] and in the evening at [phone number].

 

Sincerely, [Your Name]

 

Further Help and Information

If you have questions or want more information on your rights under the Arkansas New Motor Vehicle Quality Assurance Act (The Lemon Law), call or write:

 

Office of Attorney General

Consumer Protection Division

200 Tower Building

323 Center Street

Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

(501) 682-2341

 

This fact sheet is a collaboration of the Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc. These nonprofit organizations provide free legal assistance to eligible Arkansans who meet income, asset, and other guidelines. Legal assistance may also include advice and counsel, brief services, or full representation depending on the situation. For more information about civil legal aid in Arkansas, please visit arlegalservices.org. For information specific to Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc., visit arlegalaid.org. Apply for services online or by calling 1-800-9-LAW-AID (1-800-952-9243).
The information and statements of law in this fact sheet should not be considered legal advice. This fact sheet is provided as a broad guide to help you understand how certain legal matters are handled in general. Courts may interpret the law differently. Before you take action, talk to an attorney and follow his or her advice. Always do what the court tells you to do.
Content provided by: Center for Arkansas Legal Services

 

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