When making an expensive consumer purchase it is important to know your legal rights. The Massachusetts Lemon Law protects consumers who have serious defects in any new car, motorcycle, van or truck bought in Massachusetts from a new car dealer. The term of protection is one year or 15,000 miles of use from the date of original delivery, whichever comes first.
The law defines a “lemon” as a new or leased motor vehicle that has a defect which substantially impairs the use, market value, or safety of the vehicle, which has not been repaired after a repair is attempted three or more times for the same defect or for a total of fifteen or more business days, not necessarily at one time.
If after that time the defect continues or recurs, the consumer must give the manufacturer (not the dealer) notice, generally by certified mail, return receipt requested, of one final repair opportunity not to exceed seven days. If the defect is not fixed after this period the consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement of the vehicle. A consumer is free to reject a replacement and demand a refund. Depending on whether the manufacturer issues a replacement or refund, it must reimburse for costs which may include transfer of registration, sales tax, un-reimbursed towing or rental charges resulting from the defect, finance charges, dealer added options, unused portion of an extended warranty or credit insurance and defect-related incidental costs minus a use allowance deducted according to a strict formula provided under the statute.
However, if the manufacturer refuses to refund or replace the vehicle, a consumer has several options for enforcement. Failure to comply with the Lemon Law is an unfair and deceptive act under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, G.L. c. 93A, under which a consumer may recover double or treble damages for willful violations, plus court costs and attorney’s fees. If you are considering court action, you may want to consult an attorney. Mediation and arbitration under the state-run Lemon Law Arbitration Program are also available.
If you encounter serious issues with a new vehicle following purchase be sure to keep complete and accurate records of all contacts and communications with the dealer and manufacturer, and all receipts. In addition, knowing your rights can give you an advantage in getting the service and repair to which you are entitled.
For more information on the New and Leased Vehicle Lemon Law visit the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations website.