Lemon Law News

Lemon Law Woman

No Longer Squeezed

The State's Lemon Laws Have Tightened Up To Provide Consumers With Added Protection

By Athena D. Merritt, Courier Times

For 16 months John Krouse of Bensalem dreaded the new car he bought.

First the alternator went on his 2000 Pontiac Firebird, and before the odometer had even clicked off 2,000 miles, brake problems followed.

"The whole front end of the car would vibrate and shake... I would get white knuckles trying to stop the car," said Krouse.

Every couple of thousand miles the same problem would return, said Krouse, who finally returned the car to the dealer under the state's Lemon Laws.

Barry Barker of Feasterville did the same with his Mercury Sable, which had ongoing problems with stalling out.

Both hope their vehicles and problems didn't get sold to another.

"I hope that if anyone buys it, they know it's a lemon," said Barker.

He and others soon won't have to worry. Beginning in December, the "lemon" history of a vehicle will have to be disclosed and a consumer's signature obtained before it is sold, leased or transferred. Vehicles returned as lemons will also be branded with a "lemon" title from PennDOT that will be carried on it for life.

The new measures, which amend existing Lemon Laws, give consumers added protection, said Rep. John Evans (R- 5, Erie and Crawford counties), the primary sponsor of the legislation signed into law by Gov. Mark Schweiker last week.

"Under current law, cars deemed to be lemons can fall through the cracks during ownership transfers, and new owners may not be fully aware of the vehicle's history of mechanical problems or defects," said Evans in a press release.

Manufacturers who buy back cars under Lemon Laws must fix them and provide a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty, as well as place stickers on the cars to alert the purchaser of its history. But the stickers are sometimes removed by dealers who purchase the cars and then resell them to unsuspecting consumers, said Lemon Law attorney Craig Thor Kimmel, who serves as legal consultant to the House Consumer Affairs Committee.

"We have consistently seen what is called the hot potato effect - everyone likes to blame everyone else on why the consumer wasn't told," said Kimmel, who said the new legislation would close the loophole in the current law that allowed the problem to exist.

"It's going to make more dealers be honest in their disclosure of a [lemon] vehicle and if they don't, the consumer is going to get that disclosure from the state when [the car] is registered," said Kimmel.

How It Works

  • Manufactures who accept a vehicle returned under the Lemon Law, must report the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to PennDOT.
  • PennDOT will then brand the title so subsequent owners and lien holders will know its history.
  • Before the vehicle is sold, leased or transferred to another person they must receive and sign a written disclosure acknowledging that they are aware the vehicle was designated a "lemon."
  • If a manufacturer or dealer doesn't comply with the disclosure requirements or the consumer isn't notified as specified, the dealer or seller will face civil penalties of up to $2,000 per car. The dealer or seller will also have to give the buyer or lessee a choice of a refund or comparable vehicle at no charge.

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