“We pluck the lemons; you get the plums.” Pulled from a VW advert circa 1950 this is possibly one of the first mentions of the term “lemon” to describe a car which doesn’t live up to purchaser expectations. The question of what to do once you find out you have bought a “lemon” has persisted the world over. Add to this the fact that the topic itself has become something of a legal lucky dip depending on where you live.
Lemon law is a generic term which describes laws that protect consumers in cases where they find that the portrayal of the vehicle they have bought falls far short of the bought vehicles capabilities. In short the laws are in place to stop unscrupulous car sales people selling sub-standard vehicles and continually repairing recurring problems until the warranty runs out.
The laws vary from place to place and the two specific sticking points are how many repairs are considered “reasonable” and when are customers entitled to a refund. In some cases the car buyer can receive a full refund if the vehicle needs as few as 3 repairs for problems which were present before he or she bought the vehicle.
Currently the area of consumer protection for motor vehicles is covered by Australian Consumer Law which was developed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in conjunction with the official state and territorial legislatures. The consumer law here itself rotates around the term “major failure”. The term “major failure” means “a reasonable consumer would not have bought the goods if they had known about the problem”. As positive as this may sound it is relatively vague and uninspiring when compared to the California situation which does appear more clear cut.
This Californian government webpage appears to show that there are far more specific approaches out there. The California consumer laws appear to contain tailored solutions specifically designed for the purchasing of motor vehicles. Additionally the California government website points to additional specifics on the topic of “Reasonable number of repairs”. In a general sense the California lemon law seems tighter, deeper and more protective of consumers.
While this comparison may seem highly technical the reality is that many car buying Australians will have a negative car buying experience. In addition it is important for Australians to be aware that there still is scope for additional consumer protection. Protection, and knowing your rights, especially considering the changes made in the past few years, is highly important and an awareness of the law can help you avoid serious stress. As with everything research needs to be done and it never hurts to review the official Australian government approach to the topic of consumer guarantees.