Legislators in New Jersey have proposed a measure that would extend traditional “lemon law” protections to customers purchasing consumer electronics. A-3978, also known as the Consumer Electronics Warranty Lemon Law, unanimously passed an Assembly committee last week. The idea behind the legislation, its sponsors said in a statement to PoliticsNJ.com, is that because some consumers spend thousands of dollars per year on electronics, they deserve the same sort of protections that car owners do.
To avoid prosecution under the proposed law, sellers would have to meet several criteria: Replace items that could not be repaired after three attempts; refund defective items; provide at-home service, if promised, within 72 hours, and comply with several other provisions. Failure to comply would result in a $10,000 fine for first offenders, under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act. If passed, New Jersey’s bill would be the first law of its kind in the nation, although going after electronics salespeople for Lemon Law violations is not entirely unheard of; Kimmel & Silverman, one of the East Coast’s top Lemon Law firms, lists electronics along with cars, trucks, motor homes and boats as “lemon” items for which it goes after fraudulent sellers. Traditionally, such claims have been brought under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a federal law passed in 1975 that governs all consumer warranties.
The proposed New Jersey law “would narrow and articulate what specific rights are, so [consumers] don’t have to see a lawyer and look it up,” said Craig Kimmel, co-founder and managing partner of Kimmel & Silverman. Kimmel said the proposed law would “give teeth” to existing legislation, but said it is too early in the process to tell how much effect the law would have. “I don’t know if it would need changes to make it practical and palatable for everyone involved,” Kimmel said. The New Jersey bill passed the state’s Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on May 10 and is now on the desk of Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts, who will decide whether to bring it for a full assembly vote. If the measure passes both the assembly and state senate, it will reach the desk of Gov. Jon Corzine.