Consumer Protection for Automobiles – More Than Just Lemon Laws.

Posted on 11/01/2016 at 10:41 amViewed 836 times

Purchasing an automobile can be a stressful endeavor.  Many consumers will only purchase a handful of automobiles in their lifetime and many times less expensive used automobiles come with hidden defects unknown to potential buyers.  This can leave consumers at a severe disadvantage when they are purchasing a new or used car because consumers are both less experienced in the process of buying a car and they are at a severe informational disadvantage as well.  Put another way, a car dealership enjoys all the information about a car it holds for sale and has the experience of countless transactions.  To counter balance this disadvantage there are laws in place to protect the automobile consumer in the State of Maine.

The Maine Lemon Law – Many consumers are familiar with the concept of Lemon Laws: If a consumer is sold a car with serious defects then the manufacturer must either fix the car or if the manufacturer cannot fix the car then the consumer may be entitled to a new car or the return of the purchase price of the car.  However, Maine’s Lemon Law applies to a surprising small group of cars sold; mostly new cars with very few exceptions.  Furthermore, there are specific steps that must be taken in order for the consumer to be protected under Maine’s Lemon Law.  First, the consumer must report the defect during the express warranty period, within three years of the date of delivery or during the first 18,000 miles of operation, whichever is earlier.  Second, once the defect is reported to the manufacturer, the manufacturer is required to make the necessary repairs.  If the repairs cannot be made, only then does the consumer have the right to argue the case before a State Arbitrator.  The hearing in front of the Arbitrator must come within 45 days of the Lemon Law application.  If the Arbitrator concludes that the car is a Lemon, only then may a consumer receive either a new vehicle or the return of the purchase price.

Used Car Information Act - The State of Maine has passed the Used Car Information Act to provide certain guarantees to consumers and to report certain information on used cars offered for sale.  The most significant guarantee is that a used car sold for transportation must be able to pass inspection on the day it is sold.  Used car dealers must give you this guarantee in writing.  This law applies even if you are sold the car “as-is.”   If the car cannot pass inspection, then the dealer must repair it, free of charge.  It is important to note that a car that is sold with the inspection sticker already on it is not proof that the car will pass inspection on the day it is sold; the car must truly meet the state inspection standards on the day of the sale.  There are many important parts to your car that must be in good working order to be able to pass inspection.  However, it is important to note that engine trouble does not qualify for this protection.  If a dealer has not obeyed the law and refused to repair your car you may be able to force that dealer to take your car back and return the purchase price to you.

Unfair Trade Practices Act – This law applies to unfair trade practices against consumers generally and is not limited to used cars.  This means that if a car dealer has done something unfair or deceptive, but the dealership’s actions don’t fit specifically into the laws outlined above, help may still be available to you.  If a car dealer has misrepresented a material fact about the car, or hidden a fact about the car you may have recourse.  For example, perhaps a car dealer misrepresented the status of the title of the car i.e. – the car had a salvage tile when the dealer represented that the title was clean.  Or perhaps the dealer misrepresented the history or condition of the car, you may have a claim against the dealer that sold you the car as this may be considered unfair and deceptive. {I would add that you are only entitled damages if you paid or lost substantial money out of pocket along with attorneys’ fees and costs for bringing a lawsuit}

Truth In Lending Act – While the TILA is also not specifically intended to protect automobile consumers it is important to mention here as so many consumers need financing to purchase a car.  TILA requires lenders to provide consumers with certain disclosures before money is loaned.  Such disclosures include loan cost information and the specific terms of the loan.  TILA is intended to stop high pressure lending tactics and to level the playing field for consumers who may be inexperienced with credit transactions.  If a lender has violated TILA by using high pressure or deceptive lending tactics, you may also have help available to you. [I would add the damages they maY be entitled do]

Molleur Law Office is committed to helping clients with automobile issues, including lending surrounding the purchase of an automobile. If you or someone you know is having an issue with a purchased car or an unfair loan please contact our office for a consultation.

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