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The Consumer Law Group, P.C.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some initial questions many clients have when they first contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.. The questions below can address many initial concerns you may have. If you don't find the answers here, you may contact us for answers to more complex questions or questions specific to your case.

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  • What if a dealer refuses to repair my new car?

    When Dealers Refuse to Repair a CarYour new car should be perfect. After all, you carefully selected the best car you could afford and are working hard to make the payments. So it is a major disappointment when you start to notice that something is wrong. Maybe it shakes at certain speeds or the shifting is clunky. Maybe it is an issue with the onboard technology. Whatever it is, it should not be happening and, luckily, the car is under warranty and the problems should be fixed, right? In most cases, yes. However, there may be times when the dealer refuses to accept your car for repair. What do you do then?

    A Lemon Law Claim Requires Proof of Repair Attempts

    Under Virginia’s Lemon Law, if a problem with a new car cannot be fixed in several repair attempts, you may be entitled to a refund or a new car. However, if a dealer refuses to even attempt a repair, do you still have a Lemon Law claim? Possibly, but you will still need proof.

    When you take the car in for the first time, the dealer will likely agree to evaluate it. Make sure he fills out a repair order and that you get a copy of it. If he returns the car claiming nothing was wrong and you continue to have the problem, take the car back to the dealer. This time, he may refuse to take it. This is where you will need to be assertive. Ask that he fill out a repair order anyway. He can write, “No repair attempted at this time.” Make sure the order has the date on it and the car’s details. You may also take the car to another dealer and document that encounter. These repair orders may provide sufficient evidence of repair attempts should you decide to make a Lemon Law claim.

    Why Would a Dealer Refuse to Repair a Car?

    In some cases, a dealer will not make a repair because it cannot get authorization from the manufacturer. If the manufacturer does not know what is wrong with the car or doesn’t know how to repair it, they may refuse to authorize the repair. Because the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for reimbursing the dealerships for warranty repairs, it is up to them to approve or deny a repair attempt. If a Lemon Law claim is successful, it is the manufacturer who must make amends with the consumer, not the dealership, so dealers often don’t have a problem passing the buck on to them.

    A Lemon Law Attorney May Be Able to Help

    If you have a significant mechanical defect in your new car and are struggling to get adequate service from the dealership, tell us about it by filling out the form on this page. We will get back to you shortly to discuss your Lemon Law options.

     

  • Why should I hire an attorney for my Virginia Lemon Law claim?

    Lemon Law LawyerIf you are experiencing ongoing problems with your new car in Virginia, you may qualify for a full refund or replacement of the vehicle under Virginia’s Lemon Law. As you begin to research how to go about making a claim, you may discover that it appears to be a do-it-yourself process. However, this may not be the approach you want to take.

    What the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Says

    The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will direct you to the Virginia Attorney General to report your complaint. Once there, you have two options:

    • The Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB administers a dispute resolution process to settle Lemon Law claims as an alternative to going to court. The BBB Auto Line Program handles complaints against most vehicle manufacturers, but may or may not be able to get you a satisfactory resolution.

    • The Virginia Attorney General’s Office. If the car company you are dealing with does not work with the BBB, or the BBB cannot successfully resolve your claim, you can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s office. However, there is no guarantee that they will be able to get your money back either.

    Your third option is to hire a qualified Virginia Lemon Law attorney to represent you against the auto manufacturer.

    Why Hire an Attorney

    An experienced Lemon Law attorney will save you time and cost you nothing. Rather than submitting a complaint and waiting for a response, our attorneys will let you know in our initial telephone conversation if you have a valid claim and will act quickly and decisively on your behalf. We can accomplish in a few days what it could take you months to accomplish on your own. If your claim is successful, the manufacturer will refund your money or replace your car and pay all of our legal and expert witness fees.

    Depending on your exact situation, you may or may not need an attorney for your Lemon Law claim, but you have nothing to lose by calling us first. We will evaluate your claim and give you an honest assessment. Fill out the form on this page to get started.

     

  • Can I recover economic damages in a Virginia Lemon Law claim?

    Can You Receive Compensation for Hardship Caused by a Lemon Law Car?You depend on your car to get to work and to get to medical appointments, so when your car is not functioning properly, you could not only miss days of work, but your health and welfare could be at risk. If the defective car is new and you have cause for a Lemon Law claim, you may be wondering if you can recover for other losses you suffered as a result of the car not working. Unfortunately, the answer is usually no.

    What You Cannot Recover Under Virginia’s Lemon Law

    Unlike in a personal injury claim, you cannot recover money for other types of damages caused by the loss of your car under a Lemon Law claim. This means that you cannot ask to be compensated for lost wages, missed medical appointments, or general hardship and suffering, even if the defects in your new car were the direct cause of these economic and non-economic damages.

    What You May Be Awarded in a Lemon Law Claim

    However, a successful Lemon Law claim will either replace your car or reimburse you for the total value of the car, plus additional expenses, including the following:

    • Sales tax

    • License fees

    • Registration Fees

    • Title Fees

    • Finance charges and interest

    • Transportation charges

    • Dealer preparation charges

    • Any other charges for service contracts, undercoating, rustproofing, or installed options, not recoverable from a third party

    • An amount for mileage, expenses, and reasonable loss of use necessitated by attempts to conform the motor vehicle to the express warranty

    • Attorney’s fees

    If the manufacturer fails to conform to the decision of an informal dispute settlement procedure and resolution of your claim is delayed, the court may also award enhanced damages of up to three times the value of the claim, plus additional attorney’s fees.

    A Virginia Lemon Law Attorney Can Help

    If your Lemon Law claim involves special circumstances, including injury or exceptional hardship that was the direct result of the defective car, you should work with the Lemon Law attorneys at The Consumer Law Group, P.C. We will assess your case to determine if you are entitled to additional damages. We are here to help you protect your rights as a consumer in Virginia, call us today at 804.282.7900. Connect with us today to learn more.

     

  • What is title washing and is it Auto Fraud?

    Are You a Victim of Title Washing?Buying a used car is always a bit of a gamble. Looks can be deceiving and a clean-looking car could be hiding dark secrets. In most states, the car’s title should give you reliable information about past sales and any major damage it has endured. However, because there is no federal standard for used-car title branding, laws vary from state to state and dishonest sellers will take a car that has been damaged to a state with loose title laws to get a clean title issued. This is called title washing and it is illegal.

    What Is Title Branding?

    In Virginia, there are a variety of designations that may be put on a car’s title depending on its history. These are known as title brands. Even a car that has been totaled can still be resold, but at least the buyer will know what they are getting. Virginia title brands include the following:

    • Not Actual. This designation refers to the odometer reading. If it is known or suspected that the odometer is not accurate, the mileage section of the title will read “Not Actual.”

    • Repaired. If the car has been in a serious accident, the title should be branded with this designation.

    • Rebuilt. If the repair cost was greater than 75 percent of the value of the car, it should be branded as “Rebuilt.”

    • Non-Repairable. If the repair cost exceeded 90 percent of the car’s value, or if an insurance company wrote the car off as totaled, the title should have this brand.

    However, if you are buying a car with a title that was issued in another state, the brands could be different or nonexistent.

    How Title Washing Works

    If a dishonest seller has a car with a title that is branded negatively, the seller may take it to a state with looser or no branding laws and get a new title issued. This title will make it look like the car has had no major repairs and no significant damage. An example of widespread title washing happened after Hurricane Katrina. Thousands of cars that were completely submerged in water were taken to states with no title branding for flooding and issued clean titles. Owners did not discover the water damage problems until it was too late.  You can expect similar problems as a result of the over 1 million cars that were flooded in Florida and Texas in the summer of 2017 hurricanes.  It is highly recommended that you have a professional body shop, not connected to the seller to inspect your car for flood or prior accident damage.

    This Practice Is Illegal

    Even though these clean titles are being issued according to individual state laws, it is still an illegal practice. Be wary when buying a used car. An inspection by a mechanic you trust could uncover problems not revealed on the title.

    While it can be hard to pursue these sellers for fraud, if you suspect a used car dealer in Virginia is washing titles as a general practice, you should report it to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and contact the Consumer Law Group in Richmond at 804.282.7900.

     

  • What is an “open repair” and how could it affect my Virginia Lemon Law claim?

    How Will an Open Repair Form Affect My Case?

    Anytime you have to return a new car to the dealership to diagnose and repair a problem, it is a major annoyance. After all, didn’t you buy a new car so that you would have reliable transportation and not have to make trips to the mechanic? The good news is that new cars are under warranty and, other than the inconvenience of being without your car, the repair shouldn’t cost you anything. But how do you know when this minor annoyance could turn into a major problem and what should you do to protect yourself? We give you advice on what to avoid here.

    What Is an “Open Repair Order?”

    It may sound harmless enough. You take your car into the dealer for a problem and the mechanic diagnoses the issue and tells you he needs to order a part. You are told you can take the car home to wait for the part to come in and they will just leave the order “open” until the part comes in and the repair is completed. Another possible scenario is when the mechanic cannot figure out what is wrong with the car. He may tell you to keep driving it to see if the problem persists, and in the meantime, will keep the repair order open. Seems reasonable—but the reality is you want to avoid open repair orders if at all possible.

    Why You Should Ask for Repair Orders to Be Closed Out

    When you have cause to file a Lemon Law claim, your main sources of evidence are going to repair orders and invoices. To be eligible for a Lemon Law claim, you must prove that the car had a persistent problem that could not be repaired in a reasonable number of attempts—usually three or four. The only proof you have that the repairs were attempted and were unsuccessful will be the invoices for repair. If a repair order is left open as multiple attempts are made, it will only count as one repair attempt and a Lemon Law claim will not be supported. In order to avoid this loophole, we recommend that you do the following:

    • Ask for a signed copy of the repair order each time you take your car in.

    • Each time you take your vehicle home, even if it has not been repaired, ask the dealer to close out the repair order ticket and give you a copy of the invoice.

    • Make sure the invoice specifies what was done to diagnose the problem, what parts are on order, the “in/out” dates, and “miles in/miles out” documentation.

    Understand that you have a right to all documentation about vehicle repairs and that you should keep these orders and invoices for your records. If you have questions about your auto repair associated with a Lemon Law Claim contact The Consumer Law Group today at 804.282.7900

     

  • Should I consider using a debt settlement company to get out of credit card debt?

    The Truth About Debt Settlement CompaniesThe answer to this question in one word is NO. No matter how desperate you are to get out of credit card debt, a for-profit debt settlement company is NOT the answer. If you contract with one of these companies, you will most likely end up in worse financial shape than you are now.

    How Debt Settlement Companies Work

    These companies prey on desperate people looking for a way out of credit card debt. They claim they will negotiate with your credit card companies to lower the amount you owe and then create a manageable payment plan for you. You will make one monthly payment to the debt settlement company and your creditors will be off your back. Sound too good to be true? It is. When working with a debt settlement company, you will be expected to do the following:

    • Pay an up-front fee of 10-20 percent of your total debt.

    • Pay additional account maintenance fees of up to several hundred dollars per month.

    • Deposit money every month into an escrow account held by the debt settlement company.

    • Stop making payments to the credit card companies—in other words, default on the debt.

    • Commit to a 36-month minimum contract.

    You may wonder why anyone would agree to these terms, but these companies are very good at hiding the fees and bottom-line cost of the plan, so many people have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. And some of these offers are complete scams; they have no intention of negotiating on your behalf. They are simply taking your money.

    Who Should You Turn to for Help?

    As soon as you run into trouble with your credit cards, you should stop using the cards and contact the credit card company directly to try to arrange a payment plan. They are not likely to be overly generous, but you may be able to come to a workable agreement. Avoiding the problem or turning to a third party will just make things worse.

    If you are looking for someone to advocate on your behalf, the attorneys at The Consumer Law Group, P.C. may be able to help. As attorneys, we have a fiduciary duty and an ethical obligation to you as our client, not to the credit card company and not to our own bottom line. National debt settlement companies have no such duty and will take full advantage of you. Contact us today for a review of your situation to see if we can help.

     

  • Why is a debt collector calling me?

    Why Debt Collectors May Be Calling YouIf you have past-due medical bills, piles of credit card debt, or owe the furnace guy for a repair he made last winter, you may not be surprised to get a call from a debt collection agency. Companies often contract out collection of past-due payments because they don’t have the resources to keep requesting payment from a delinquent customer. However, you may be contacted by a debt collector when you don’t think you owe anybody. This may be a legitimate call, or it may not.

    Why a Debt Collector May Call

    The most obvious reason a debt collector calls is because they believe you owe money. The first time a debt collector calls, you should hear him out to make sure it is not, in fact, a debt you owe. Never provide the caller with any personal information; if it is a legitimate call, he will have the information he needs. Ask the caller for his name, company, street address, and phone number, and then request a written validation notice. If he is unable to provide this information, he may not be a legitimate debt collector. Other reasons you may be contacted by a debt collection agency include the following:

    • To locate a friend or family member. If a debt collector is trying to track down someone you may know, they may call you one time—any more than this is considered harassment and is illegal—but may not reveal that the person owes a debt. You are under no obligation to reveal any information and the collector may not call you again.

    • Your debt has been sold. Debt buyers are companies that purchase debt from creditors and then attempt to collect on it. You may be contacted by one of these companies. You should not give the caller any personal information and should request a validation notice. You cannot be sued for old debt, so it is important to ask for transaction dates.

    • You are being scammed. Criminals often randomly call people claiming to be a collection agency and accusing them of owing money in an attempt to get a credit card number or cash transfer. Never give information over the phone and always ask them to verify their identity.

    There are strict laws in place that prohibit debt collectors from harassing people by phone or in person. If you believe you are being harassed by a debt collection agency, contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.  for assistance. Once you have hired a lawyer, the debt collector will be required by law to only communicate with your attorney.

     

  • Can I file a Lemon Law claim when the dealer can’t figure out what’s wrong with my new car?

    What Are Your Options When a Dealer Can't Find the Problem With Your New CarThere is nothing more frustrating than having a problem with your new car that the dealer can’t or won’t fix. You may experience a strong vibration at a particular speed or find that the brakes lock up unexpectedly from time to time. When you take the car to the dealership and explain your problem, you are met with questions and doubt. The mechanic takes the car to diagnose the problem and tells you he cannot find anything wrong with it. The dealer may say that there is a “failure to duplicate” the problem and you are left hanging. Why does this happen and what can you do?

    Why Dealerships Don’t Make More of an Effort

    When you bring your car to the dealership for repair while it is still under warranty, you may not be getting top-quality service. This is because the cost of a warranty repair to the dealer is reimbursed by the automaker, but at a pre-determined rate. Common fixes are allotted a maximum labor time by the manufacturer and the dealer will only be reimbursed that amount, no matter how long the repair actually takes. This discourages some dealers from taking the time to properly diagnose and fix your problem. If the car is still under warranty and the problem you are having is difficult to diagnose, the dealer risks losing money on the repair. Less reputable dealerships will instead tell you that they were not able to duplicate the problem, or that the vehicle is operating as designed.

    So What Can You Do About it?

    Under Virginia’s Lemon Law, if a dealership is unable to repair a defect after several attempts, you may be eligible for a full refund or a replacement vehicle. But if the dealer is not admitting that you even have a problem, how can you qualify for a Lemon Law claim? We suggest taking the following steps:

    • Go to another dealership. If the dealership where you bought your car is unable to identify the problem after two attempts, go to another dealership. Each dealership is independently owned and operated and the guy down the street may be more cooperative.

    • Keep all paperwork. Every time you take your car in for service, the dealer mechanic must fill out warranty paperwork. Be sure to ask for your copy—even if no work is completed, or the dealer claims NPF (no problems found).  This will establish a paper trail of your efforts to repair the car.

    • Pay an independent mechanic to diagnose the problem. While a warranty repair should cost you nothing, it may be worth it to pay a trusted mechanic to evaluate and diagnose your problem. While you should not have him actually make the repair as that could void the warranty, returning to the dealership with a written evaluation of the problem could either solve the problem or at least provide support for a Lemon Law claim.

    • Hire an attorney. A Lemon Law attorney will be able to gather the information you need to support a claim for reimbursement or replacement of your vehicle.

    If you think the Consumer Law Group can be of assistance in pursuing a Lemon Law claim in Virginia, please fill out the form on this page for a free case evaluation.

     

  • Should I consider an auto loan modification plan when I can’t make my loan payments?

    Dangers of Auto Loan Modification ProgramsNo matter what caused you to get behind on your car payments, you are probably desperate for a solution. After all, you need your car to get to work, get groceries, and to drive your family where they need to go. So when you are facing repossession of your car, you might be willing to do anything to avoid it. Unfortunately, scam artists know this and are poised to take full advantage of you. One way they do this is by promising to renegotiate the terms of your loan for an up-front fee. Don’t fall for it—it’s most likely a scam.

    What Do These Companies Promise?

    Whether you seek out a solution to your car loan payment problems or you receive an unsolicited offer, you should be very wary of what is being promised. These loan modification companies will charge you several hundred dollars and promise to negotiate with your lender to lower your monthly payment. They may share positive client testimonials and claim they have relationships with dealerships and lenders. They may even offer to refund your money if they cannot make a deal for you. However, many of these companies are complete frauds. They have no intention of contacting your lender. Basically, they will take your money and run. Meanwhile, you may have stopped making payments as you wait to hear back about your new payment plan, putting you in even more trouble with your lender. Even when the company is not a total fraud, they cannot do any more for you than you could do for yourself.

    So, What Can You Do?

    As soon as you are unable to make a payment, contact your lender to see they will work with you. The longer you wait, the fewer options you will have. Your lender may agree to either deferring missed payments to the end of the loan or extending the loan term to reduce monthly payments. You will end up paying more on the loan in the long run, as creditors are unlikely to reduce the amount of principal you owe or to lower the interest rate to accommodate you. If you are unable to negotiate a plan you can afford, the lender may be able to repossess your car.

    Fight Back Against Fraud

    If you were the victim of loan modification fraud, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission and call The Consumer Law Group, P.C.  to see if we can help you take action against the fraudulent company and get your money back.

     

  • How can I register a complaint with the FTC?

    Filing a Complaint After a ScamThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has heard it all. They know that crooks are cooking up new scams every day and that vulnerable people fall for them and lose billions of dollars each year. Consumer Reports revealed that 27 million people lost nearly $8 billion to telemarketing scams alone in 2015, the most common being a phony call from the Internal Revenue Service demanding immediate payment of taxes and fees. So what can you do when this happens to you?

    File a Complaint

    Once you have been duped, it may be very difficult to get your money back, but it is still important that you report the problem to the FTC. By doing so, you will help the agency track common scams so that they can investigate and warn others. The FTC has made it very easy to report problems—from an annoyance complaint to an outright crime—through its interactive website, the FTC Complaint Assistant. There, you will be asked to choose one of the following categories and a sub-category for your complaint:

    • Scams and rip-offs: counterfeit checks; imposter scams; prizes, sweepstakes, or lotteries; and romance scams.

    • Telemarketing: unwanted telemarketing phone calls, texts, or emails.

    • Mobile devices and telephones: devices, services, plans and contracts, and billing.

    • Internet services, online shopping, computers: internet service providers, online auctions, internet gaming, children’s online privacy, social networking, online retailers, malicious computer viruses, and general hardware/software concerns.

    • Education and jobs: for-profit schools, online classes, scholarship programs, multi-level marketing plans, pyramid schemes, and fake employment opportunities.

    • Credit and debt: credit cards, loans, mortgages, payday loans, credit reporting, and debt collection agencies.

    Once you have chosen the best category for your complaint, you will be asked to provide information about the product or service, how much money you lost, and give a detailed account of what happened. While the FTC does not resolve individual complaints, by reporting the problems, you will receive information on what your next steps should be to try to resolve the issue. There may be another agency to contact—including the police—and they may advise you to contact a consumer attorney to assist you in your fight to resolve the issue and get your money back. If you are in need of a consumer attorney in Virginia, contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.

     

  • How long will it take to improve my credit score?

    How to Improve Your Credit Score Over TimeIf you have ever tried to get a loan, you know how important your credit score is. That mysterious, magical number can either guarantee you a loan with a low interest rate or guarantee that you will be denied outright. Most of us are somewhere in between, facing higher interest rates and insurance premiums because of a not-so-stellar credit score. It’s not always easy to raise that score, but with a plan and patience, you can gradually bring the number up to a more desirable range.

    Know What Factors Affect Your Score

    The first thing to understand is what has contributed to your current credit score. Credit reporting agencies use a variety of factors to calculate your credit score. The following poor financial habits will negatively affect your credit score:

    • Frequently paying bills late

    • Owing debt equal to or close to your credit limits

    • Having a short credit history

    • Applying for too many credit cards

    • Having too many of the same kinds of credit accounts (e.g. installment loans or credit cards)

    • Declaring bankruptcy

    If these traits describe you, your first goal should be to change as many of them as possible. This will not be easy for many people.

    Improving Your Credit Score

    Even when you have made the commitment to change your bad habits and improve your credit score, it will take some time. If you have declared bankruptcy, you will have to wait 7-10 years for that to be removed from your credit report.  However, after about 2 years from discharge, your score will begin to improve if no further negative entries are added.  If you have not declared bankruptcy, the process should be much faster. For some people, it can be as little as 30-90 days, but it depends on your history and debt load. The Federal Reserve recommends taking the following steps immediately to improve your credit score over time:

    1. Get copies of your credit reports and make sure they are accurate.

    2. Pay all your bills on time.

    3. Learn the legal steps to take to improve your credit report.

    4. Beware of credit repair scams.

    While this may sound simple enough, we understand that it is not so easy for many Americans. Repairing credit requires discipline and patience. You will need to create a budget so that bills get paid on time and stick to it. If there is false information on your credit report that is lowering your score, however, you may be able to take legal action to have it removed. If you have contacted the credit reporting agencies to no avail, contact us through the link on this page to see if we can help.

     

  • How long will it take to settle my Lemon Law claim in Virginia?

    How Long Should My Case Take?Settling a Lemon Law claim is not as simple as returning an unwanted pair of jeans to The Gap. It can take many months from the day you buy your car to the day you are fully compensated when that car is a lemon. In some instances, it can even take years. However, when you work with an experienced Lemon Law attorney, the process should be much quicker.

    This Case Took Over Five Years

    In a highly publicized Lemon Law case out of Wisconsin a few years ago, Mercedes-Benz was ordered to pay $482,000 in damages for a car that was originally purchased for $56,000 in 2005. This is one of the largest Lemon Law judgements ever awarded, but it took over five years from the purchase date of the car to the final resolution of the case. In this case, the manufacturer had 30 days to respond to the owner’s initial request for a refund and failed to do so. Under Wisconsin law, the owner could then sue for double damages and legal fees, which he did. After several appeals, the case finally settled in 2010, with Mercedes being ordered to pay $168,000 (double the purchase price, plus interest) to the owner and $314,000 in legal fees. Had the manufacturer responded promptly, they would have saved several hundred thousand dollars.

    Most Cases Take Only a Few Months:

    This case is unusual as most cases only take 6 - 9 months. Some ways to ensure a faster turnaround for your claim include the following:

    1. Keep detailed and accurate repair records.

    2. File a Lemon Law claim as soon as possible after three unsuccessful repair attempts for a non-safety related defect, or after one unsuccessful repair of a safety defect and after giving written notice to the manufacturer.  Written notice means writing a letter to the manufacturer, not an email.  

    3. Hire an experienced Lemon Law attorney.

    The Wisconsin case is a good example of the courts cracking down on manufacturers who delay decisions in the hopes that a consumer will just give up. When you work with a Lemon Law attorney, however, he will make sure your case is dealt with promptly.

    Call The Consumer Law Group, P.C. With Your Lemon Law Concerns

    If you have a lemon and are struggling to be heard by the dealership or manufacturer, call our office today. We will determine if you have a valid claim. Our fees are paid by the manufacturer upon successful completion of the case.

     

  • Are motorcycles covered under the Virginia Lemon Law?

    Mechanic Working on a MotorcycleOwning a motorcycle is a life-long dream for many people and whether they ultimately choose a comfortable cruiser or a high-speed sport bike, they expect that their new purchase will have them out on the open road more than in the shop. However, like other new vehicles, motorcycles can experience mechanical problems that need repair. Fortunately, motorcycles are covered under Virginia’s Lemon Law, so the owner is protected when he purchases a defective bike.

    What Vehicles Are Covered?

    Basically, all new vehicles—and some used vehicles—are covered under the law, including:

    • Passenger cars designed and used primarily for the transportation of no more than 10 persons including the driver

    • Pickup or panel trucks designed for the transportation of property and having a registered gross weight of 7,500 pounds or less

    • Motorcycles, mopeds, or the self-propelled motorized chassis of a motor home

    • Demonstrator or leased vehicles with which a warranty was issued

    In order to win a Lemon Law claim, you will have to show that your bike had to be repaired for the same defect three or more times in the first 18 months of ownership or it has been in the shop for over 30 days.  If it is a  life threatening defect then the law only requires 1 unsuccessful repair attempt.  

    Common Mechanical Problems in New Motorcycles

    According to a Consumer Reports motorcycle owner satisfaction survey, around 20 percent of owners report a significant failure of their bike within the first four years of ownership. While only the failures occurring in the first 18 months would qualify for a Lemon Law claim, it’s helpful to note that the following systems are most likely to fail on new bikes:

    • Electrical systems. Components such as the starter, alternator, lights, spark plugs, and battery can all act up in the first few months of ownership.

    • Accessories. Not all accessories will be covered by the Lemon Law, but some factory-installed options may be covered if they are defective.

    • Brakes. Problems with a new bike’s brakes will likely qualify as a significant safety defect, which the dealer will only have one attempt to repair.

    • Fuel system. Any problems with the fuel tank, pump, filter, or relay could warrant a Lemon Law claim.

    Your Virginia Lemon Law Attorney Will Know If Your Motorcycle Is a Lemon

    Your motorcycle dealership in Virginia should be familiar with the Lemon Law and should cooperate when you need to file a claim. However, if you are facing resistance, give our office a call. We will tell you if we can help.

     

  • Does a safety recall give me a Lemon Law claim?

    Automobile Recall SignThere is understandably some confusion about when a defect in a new car warrants a Lemon Law claim. Many people assume that if the manufacturer is admitting to a defect through a recall, there must be cause for a Lemon Law claim. However, this is rarely the case. To understand why, we need to explain the difference between a safety recall and Virginia’s Lemon Law. The two consumer safety protections apply to different issues related to new cars.

    Lemon Laws Apply to a Single Vehicle

    When you buy a new car, you expect it to be perfect. Now and then, new cars have kinks to work out which the dealership should repair at no cost to you under the car’s warranty. However, when you have to take the car back to the dealership several times in the first 18 months to fix the same problem, you may have a claim under Virginia’s Lemon Law entitling you to compensation in the form of a refund of your purchase price or a new car of comparable value. If the problem with the car is an immediate threat to your safety, the dealership has one opportunity to fix it before the Lemon Law kicks in. In general, Lemon Law defects are the result of an error in the manufacturing of a single car.

    Safety Recalls Apply to All Cars

    When poor design or a defective component affects the safety of an entire line of cars, the automaker is required to repair the defect in all of those cars at no cost to the owner. They do this by issuing a recall of all affected vehicles. Owners receive a notice by mail that they must take the car into the dealership for the free repair. Since these defects are generally repaired in a single attempt, they may not qualify for a Lemon Law claim.

    Are You Entitled to a Loaner Vehicle While your Car is Being Fixed for a Saftey Recall?

    No, many manufactureres may offer this while your car is being repaired, however, they are not required to do so. 

     

    What If the Dealer Doesn’t Fix the Problem?

    If the recall applies to a non-safety related issue, the dealer will still have several attempts to get it fixed before you can file a Lemon Law claim. However, if it is a safety concern and it is not repaired under the recall, you may have a Lemon Law claim if you have had the car for less than a year and a half. If you find yourself in this situation, give the Lemon Law attorneys at the Consumer Law Group a call. We will discuss your situation with you and let you know if you have a possible claim.

     

  • What actions can I take against a debt collector for harassment?

    Debt Collection Harassment ConceptIf you owe money to a creditor and your debt has been turned over to a debt collector, you can be sure they are going to make every effort to contact you. They are within their rights to notify you that they are attempting to collect the debt and they can take you to court to sue for the money you owe. However, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), there are limits to what they can do. If you feel that you are being unfairly harassed by a debt collector, you can take action to stop them and if they do not stop, you may be able to sue for damages.

    What You Should Do First

    Before taking legal action, you should make every effort to settle the debt the collector is trying to collect. If you do truly owe the money you are being asked for, you can stop harassment before it starts by paying the money you owe or making a settlement arrangement. If the harassment continues, you can write a cease and desist letter which will obligate the collector to stop contacting you. If they do not stop calling you, keep a record of the calls and call us. If you do not owe the money, you must notify the debt collector of the error in writing and tell him to never contact you again. He must then stop contacting you and investigate your claim.

    Taking Legal Action

    If the harassment continues despite settling or disputing the debt, you may want to consider taking legal action. With the help of a consumer attorney, you can sue the collection agency for damages. Under federal law, you can receive up to $1,000 in statutory damages, legal fees, and whatever actual damages you can prove in court. As creditors and debt collectors can and probably will claim that they made an honest mistake (known as a bona fide error), you will need an experienced consumer attorney to counter their defense. In cases of extreme unjustified harassment, you may also be able to sue for invasion of privacy, defamation, or other criminal charges.

    Contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.

    If you have questions about whether you are being harassed or how to take legal action against a debt collector or creditor, fill out the form on this page and we will get back to you shortly with answers.

     

  • What is the “Five Finger Spread” scam used by car dealers?

    Salesperson Holding a Hand in Front of a Sales AgreementYou’ve heard the age-old advice, “Read the fine print,” but what if you can’t see the fine print? This may be the case when signing a purchase agreement for a new or used car from a disreputable dealer. In this simple but effective trick, the salesperson offers the contract to you, but places his hand over key sections of the contract so that you cannot see what you are signing. The buyer thinks the salesman is holding the paper in place so that it can be signed more easily, but, in fact, he is tricking you into agreeing to a purchase price you did not agree to or expensive add-ons or even devices which can shut your car off is a payment is late.

    What Could Be Under the Hand?

    It may be hard to believe that a salesperson would attempt something so deceitful, but a savvy consumer should always be skeptical and insist on reading every word of a contract before signing. Some profitable add-ons a dealer may sneak into a contract include:

    • Rustproofing. New cars do not need this service, but it earns dealers a big profit, so they are happy to offer it, or sneak it into a contract.

    • Fabric protection. Spraying a protectant on the fabric costs the dealer almost nothing, but they will gladly stick you with a charge of $100 or more.

    • Paint protection. Paint sealant is another unnecessary service given the quality of the factory paint jobs these days, but it is easily hidden in a contract, so look for it.

    • VIN etching. When a vehicle identification number (VIN) is etched onto a car window, it makes the car much harder to sell if it has been stolen, so this service is a decent theft deterrent. However, you can do this yourself for $30 rather than paying a dealer $300.

    • Extended warranty. Most experts agree that extended warranties are not worth the money, but dealers are successful in talking many buyers into them. Make sure one has not been added into your contract without your approval.

    • A bump in the sales price. If nothing else, you should absolutely make sure you can see the final sales price on the contract when you sign it. If a dealer is attempting to cover up the price, you can be sure he is up to something shady.

    • Starter interrupt devices.  These permit the creditor or dealer to disable your car if it wants to when it feels a payment or other requirement in your purchase/loan contract is not met.  

    Buyer Beware

    It is up to you as the buyer to read everything you sign and question anything you do not understand. However, if a dealer or salesperson intentionally deceives you into agreeing to pay for something you do not want, you may have a case for auto fraud. Contact the Consumer Law Group to find out more.

     

  • What happens when my credit dispute is not resolved to my satisfaction?

    Consumer Checking on a Credit Dispute OnlineWhen you find a debt on your credit report that is not yours, it is up to you to file a dispute so that the debt is removed from your report. Unpaid debt can negatively affect your credit rating and prevent you from being able to be approved for loans or to qualify for lower interest rates. In order to properly challenge a debt, you must dispute it with both the creditor and the consumer reporting agencies (CRA). CRAs are required to follow certain procedures when a debt is disputed.

    How to Dispute a Debt

    If you are checking your three credit reports every year as recommended, you may discover mistakes on a report that lower your credit rating and affect your ability to get a loan. When the problem is a debt that you don’t recognize as being yours, you need to inform both the creditor who claims it is your debt and the CRA reporting the debt. To do this, you will have to write letters and attach documentation to both the creditor and the CRA that proves the truth of your dispute.  Keep copies of the letters you send for your own records.  Send the letters with a return receipt requested or via Fedex or UPS so you can prove the CRA and creditor received your dispute.

    What the CRA Will Do Next

    When a CRA receives a letter of dispute, they will investigate the merit of the claim and take one of the following actions:

    • Delete the disputed information in an expedited dispute resolution.

    • Determine that the dispute is frivolous and then notify you and give reasons for its determination.  (Always save any response from the CRA or creditor.)

    • Forward the dispute to the creditor within five days to conduct an investigation.

    When Your Dispute Doesn’t Go Your Way

    If the debt is not removed from your credit report according to your wishes, you may file a statement of dispute which will require the CRA to place a note on all future credit reports that you dispute the information contained in the report. While this does not completely solve the problem, it does let potential creditors know that you have filed a dispute.

    When to Take Legal Action

    If you are not able to resolve a dispute with a CRA, you may seek litigation in a private action, but only if you can prove willful or negligent noncompliance by the CRA. Contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.  to discuss your situation and determine if you have a case of a Fair Credit Reporting Act violation.

     

  • Can I keep driving a defective car while waiting for a Lemon Law ruling?

    Despite finding a defect in your new car that the manufacturer has been unable to fix, you may be in a situation where the car in question is your only car and you have no choice but to drive it until a decision is reached and you are issued a refund or a replacement of the car. Because the car is still your property, you can continue to drive it until your Lemon Law claim is resolved, but you should be aware of what it could cost you.

    Do Not Drive a Car With a Serious Safety Defect

    The first question to consider is whether the car’s nonconformity affects the safety of the vehicle in any way. When a Lemon Law claim is based on a A Lemon Car Broken Down on the Side of the Roadsafety defect, the manufacturer is usually only given one chance to fix the defect, so the Lemon Law process should be quicker than it is with a non-safety-related defect. However, if the problem with the car compromises the safety of the driver and passengers, you should stop driving the car immediately. Virginia’s Lemon Law considers a defect to be a serious threat to safety if it is a life-threatening malfunction that prevents the driver from controlling or operating the motor vehicle under ordinary conditions or creates a risk of fire or explosion.

    Use of the Car Could Reduce the Amount of Your Refund

    When you win a Lemon Law claim, the manufacturer will either replace the vehicle with a vehicle of comparable value or refund the purchase price of the vehicle. In both cases, however, any damage to the car you are returning beyond normal wear and tear will be deducted from the value. So, if you damage the car in any way while waiting for your claim to be resolved, the value of that damage will be deducted from the refund. It will be up to you to weigh your need to drive the car against the potential for damaging it.

    A Lemon Law Attorney Will Help With These Decisions

    Many Lemon Law claims can be resolved without the help of an attorney. However, if you are having a hard time with the dealer or manufacturer, you may want to contact an attorney to represent you. The Consumer Law Group is experienced in Virginia Lemon Law and is here to help when your claim gets complicated.

     

  • What can I do if my car has a defect, but it is past the 18 months allowed by the lemon law?

    Claims File in a Filing CabinetVirginia’s Lemon Law applies to persistent defects found in new cars within the first 18 months of ownership. Even if the problem with your car began within those 18 months, if you fail to make the claim within the time limit, you will lose the opportunity to get a full refund of your purchase price or a new car in exchange for the defective one. However, this does not mean you should accept the defect. You are likely still covered under the car’s warranty and can make a warranty claim to get the problem fixed.

    Making a Warranty Claim

    Some new car warranties cover your car for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first, but many manufacturers offer longer warranties, up to five years or 60,000 miles and power train warranties for up to 100,000 miles. Make sure you understand what your warranty covers before making a claim. Unscrupulous dealers or repair shops may try to claim that a particular issue is not covered by the warranty when in fact it is. Read your warranty carefully and understand exactly what is covered.

    There are various types of warranties, including:

    • Bumper-to-bumper. This is the general coverage that would pay to repair defects with any factory-installed part between the front bumper and the rear bumper. In other words, everything on the car. Tires are usually not included because they come with a separate tire manufacturer warranty.

    • Powertrain. This coverage applies to the engine, transmission, and transaxle parts, and usually lasts longer than basic coverage. This is also known as a drivetrain warranty.

    Understand When the Warranty Applies

    Remember that the Lemon Law only applies to defects covered under warranty that are not repaired after several attempts. For a single defect that is fixed with the first repair attempt, the warranty would apply rather than the Lemon Law. However, once the 18 months are up, any repair issue may still be covered by the warranty and you may be eligible for your damages or a refund of the purchase price under a breach of warranty claim.

    If you have any questions about the Lemon Law in Virginia, feel free to browse our website. Attorney John C. Gayle co-wrote Virginia’s Lemon Law and provides lots of useful information to consumers.

     

  • Do I have a right to cancel a car purchase agreement?

    Red Cancelled Stamp on Top of Auto ContractBefore signing on the dotted line for that shiny new car, you had better be sure about the purchase because, once you drive off the lot, you will not be able to cancel the agreement and return the car. Unfortunately, there are some misconceptions that buyers have a “cooling-off” time period in which to change their minds about the purchase. While this is true for some types of purchases, it does not apply to new cars.

    When Contracts May Be Cancelled

    One of the few circumstances that could lead to a new car purchase agreement being cancelled is if the dealer has agreed to a conditional sale, also known as a “yo-yo sale.” In this case, you sign a contract agreeing to purchase the car and the dealer lets you take the car before it has received final approval from a third party lender it is trying to sell your loan to. If financing is denied, the dealer will cancel the contract.  You must return the vehicle, in its original condition, within 24 hours and the dealer must return you trade in and the down payment you made with no deductions for your usage or mileage  or you face repossession. This right to cancel only applies to the dealership—you do not have a right to cancel for any reason.

    Buyer’s Remorse Protection Does Not Apply to New Cars

    Unlike other products, cars lose significant value as soon as they are driven off the lot. If car dealers allowed even a brief “cooling-off” period, they would be stuck selling new cars at a loss. That is one reason the Federal Trade Commission’s 3-day cooling-off rule does not apply to new car purchases. In fact, this rule only applies to sales made at your home, workplace or dormitory, or at a seller’s temporary location, like a hotel or motel room, convention center, fairground or restaurant. It is designed to protect consumers from high-pressure sales tactics in locations other than a store or showroom. Some people believe they are allowed this protection for any purchase, but they are not.

    When You May Have a Case for Return

    If a dealership intentionally misled you into purchasing a car, either through false advertising, failing to disclose the full price or terms of financing, or misrepresenting the accident history or condition of the vehicle, or any other form of fraud, you may have a case for returning the car for a full refund. If you believe your new car has a mechanical defect and qualifies for Virginia’s Lemon Law, you may also be able to return it. These situations can often be worked out directly with the dealership but, if a dealer is making it difficult for you, you may need the help of a consumer attorney.

    Call The Consumer Law Group, P.C.  If You Suspect Auto Fraud

    If you believe a dealership in Virginia has committed fraud and you are stuck with a car or a loan payment you don’t want, contact our consumer attorneys. We will fight to get justice for you.