Upstate Used Car Dealer Agrees To Alter Contracts
Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with an upstate used car dealer
that misled consumers about their warranty repair rights under the Lemon Law.
"The Used Car Lemon Law is a tremendously successful law that provides consumers protections through a minimal statutory warranty for pre-owned vehicles and a remedy in the event their used vehicle is faulty," Spitzer said. "A consumer's warranty rights under the Lemon Law cannot be waived through any private agreement or contract."
Cars By Phone, Inc., which does business as Auto Solutions, has operated auto dealerships in Monroe, Seneca and Onondaga counties. Auto Solutions agreed to remove a provision of its "Delivery Checklist" that required consumers to waive the warranty provided by the state Lemon Law if they declined to purchase an extended warranty. The Delivery Checklist is the last of numerous documents signed by consumers when taking possession of newly-purchased used vehicles.
Auto Solutions ceased including such a provision in its checklist in July 2003 when Spitzer's office brought the matter to its attention.
This agreement could affect as many as 4,300 individuals who have bought used cars from Auto Solutions since September 2000 and signed the delivery checklist. Consumers who paid for repair work on used vehicles purchased at Auto Solutions between September 2000 and July 2003 may be eligible for a full refund of the repair cost if the work was performed during the Lemon Law warranty period.
Consumers must complete a complaint form and return it to the Attorney General's Rochester Regional Office no later than March 10, 2004 to qualify for reimbursement.
In settling the investigation, Auto Solutions agreed to pay $5,000 in civil penalties and costs to the state.
The locations of Auto Solutions dealerships are: 938 Bailey Road, West Henrietta; 6215 State Route 96 in Canandaigua; and 2211 Erie Boulevard, Syracuse, which recently moved to 1002 Routes 5 and 20 in Geneva.
Individuals can obtain a complaint form by contacting the Attorney General's Rochester Regional office at (585) 546-7430 or by going to the office's website at www.ag.ny.gov. The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Bruce of the Rochester Regional Office.
The New York State Used Car Lemon Law provides a legal remedy for consumers who are buyers or lessees of used cars that turn out to be "lemons." The law requires dealers to give consumers a written warranty. Under this warranty, dealers must repair, free of charge, any defects in covered parts. If the dealer is unable to repair the car after a reasonable number of attempts, the consumers is entitled to a full refund. No used car covered by this law can be sold by a dealer "as is."
Specifically, used cars purchased, leased or transferred for $1,500 or more are provided with the following statutory warranty:
- 18,000 - 36,000 miles = 90 days or 4,000 miles, whichever comes first;
- 36,001 - 79,999 miles = 60 days or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first;
- 80,000 - 100,000 miles = 30 days or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Under the Used Car Lemon Law, covered parts must include at least: engine; transmission, drive axle; brakes; steering; radiator; alternator; generator, starter, and the ignition system (excluding battery). Consumers are eligible for a refund of the car's purchase price or reimbursement of lease payments if: the same problem cannot be repaired after three or more attempts; or the car is out of service for a total of 15 days or more during the warranty period and the problem continues to persist.
A consumer should immediately report any malfunction or defect of a covered part to the dealer and request the necessary repairs.
A dealer, however, may refuse to refund a purchase price or lease payments if the problem does not substantially impair the value of the vehicle or if the problem is caused by abuse, neglect or unreasonable modification.
If a dealer does not repair the defect and refuses to issue a refund, consumers may seek arbitration through the New York State Used Car lemon Law Arbitration Program offered through the Attorney General's office. Disputes can also be handled through private litigation.
Individuals with questions regarding the Lemon Law are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755 or to visit the office's website at www.ag.ny.gov