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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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  • 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.

     

  • What can I do if my used car does not qualify for a Lemon Law claim in Virginia?

    A Mechanic Working on a Used Car LemonWhile a handful of states have used car Lemon Laws, Virginia is not one of them. In Virginia, if the used car you purchased is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty and is less than 18 months old, you may be able to file a Lemon Law claim for mechanical or safety defects that cannot be repaired in a reasonable number of attempts. However, it is more common for used cars to be older than 18 months and to be past the limits of their warranty. If this is the case with the used car you have purchased and you find that it doesn’t run as promised, you may still be able to do something about it.

    Federal Laws That May Help

    When you buy a used car in good faith and find within a short period of time that something is wrong with it, you may be able to seek a remedy under one of the following federal laws:

    • The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). Under the UCC, when you buy a used car, it automatically includes an implied warranty that the car is fit for transportation. However, an “as-is” sale usually overrides the implied warranty. Since most used cars are sold as-is, this code probably won’t help. However, the District of Columbia prohibits dealers from disclaiming the implied warranty, so the UCC can be effective there.

    • The Federal Trade Commission's Used Car Rule. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires dealers who sell five or more cars per year to post a buyer’s guide in every car they sell. The guide must provide certain key pieces of information about the risks associated with buying a used car. If the used car you bought doesn’t include such information, you may have a claim if something goes wrong.

    • Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Also known as the federal lemon law, this law prohibits the dealer from disclaiming an implied warranty when a car is sold with an express written warranty. It also provides for the awarding of attorney fees in particular cases.

    Getting your money back or trading a defective used car for a different car are not easy actions to take in Virginia. You can protect yourself from buying a defective used car by having a mechanic inspect it before you buy it and checking for repair records and possible damage by running a Vehicle Identification Number report. If you believe you have been treated unfairly by a used car dealer, tell us about it on the form on this page. We will get back to you soon to let you know if you have a viable claim.

     

  • Which federal benefits are exempt from wage garnishment by debt collectors?

    What Wages Can Be Garnished?If you are contacted by a creditor or debt-collector, it is very important that you notify the creditor, in writing, that you dispute the debt and request proof of the account. If the creditor decides to file a lawsuit against you, and you fail to appear to the first court date, a default judgment will get ordered against you and the creditor may start garnishment action.

    What Can Be Garnished?

    If a creditor or debt collector successfully sues you to collect the money you owe, the court will issue a judgement against you. The judgement will state the amount of money you owe and allows the creditor to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party to turn over funds to pay the debt. The garnishment order may apply to the following:

    • Your employer. If the creditor or debt collector orders garnishment of your wages, your employer will withhold part of your compensation and give it to the debt collector.

    • Your bank. A garnishment order may also apply to any money you have in a savings or checking account. The bank will be directed to turn over funds from your account to the creditor.

    Benefits That Cannot Be Garnished

    In most cases, federal benefits cannot be garnished to pay debts on credit cards, car loans, mortgages, and medical bills. The following benefits are exempt from garnishment:

    • Social Security Benefits

    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits

    • Veterans’ Benefits

    • Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits

    • Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits

    • Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance

    If you depend on any of these benefits, you can rest assured that they will not be redirected to pay off debt. However, federal benefits can be garnished in some cases to pay delinquent taxes, child support, alimony, and student loans.

    The Consumer Law Group Can Help

    If you are the victim of unfair debt collection practices, you can take legal action. Tell us your story through the contact link on this page and we will get back to you. We are dedicated to protecting consumers’ rights.

     

  • What are debt collectors not allowed to do when contacting a debtor?

    You probably didn’t intend to get behind in your payments, but now that debt collectors are contacting you, you are starting to feel like a criminal. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates what debt collectors can and cannot do to seek payment of debts. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are prohibited from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive tactics to get you to pay your debt.

    Which Practices Are Prohibited?

    A Debt Collector at a Young Couple's DoorWhen you owe money on a credit card account, car loan, mortgage, or medical bill, the creditor you owe is within their rights to use a debt collection service to take over seeking payment from you. However, the debt collector is required by federal law to follow certain protocols and to not harass, deceive, threaten, or abuse you. According to the FTC, debt collectors are prohibited from the following practices:

    • Using threats of violence or harm

    • Publishing a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts

    • Using obscene or profane language

    • Falsely claiming that they are attorneys or government representatives

    • Falsely claiming that you have committed a crime

    • Falsely representing that they operate or work for a credit reporting company

    • Misrepresenting the amount you owe

    • Indicating that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t

    • Indicating that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are

    • Telling you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt

    • Threatening to sue you without the actual intent to do so

    Debt collectors are also prohibited from engaging in unfair practices to confuse or frighten you. They may not do any of the following:

    • Give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company

    • Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t

    • Use a false company name to pressure you

    • Try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt—or your state law—allows the charge

    • Deposit a post-dated check early

    • Take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally

    • Contact you by postcard

    What You Can Do About it

    If you were the victim of any of these practices at the hands of a debt collector, you can take action against them. You should first report the abuse to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and to the Federal Trade Commission. You may also sue the debt collector for any damages you may have suffered as a result of his unfair practices. If you need assistance with pursuing a claim against a debt collector, contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.  Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the process to see that your rights are protected.

     

  • If my Lemon Law case crosses state lines, will the UCC help?

    A Lemon Car With Broken Car PartsWhile the rights guaranteed by Virginia’s Lemon Law are relatively easy to navigate, when your Lemon Law claim involves a state other than Virginia, you may run into complications. If you purchased your vehicle in Maryland, for example, the differences between their Lemon Law and ours may make pursuing a claim more difficult. When this happens, the set of national guidelines known as the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) may be of assistance in your case.

    What Is the Uniform Commercial Code?

    The UCC is a collection of legal rules and standards relating to various commercial activities. Originally drafted by legal scholars in 1952, the UCC has been amended over the years and parts of it have been adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia. While it is a lengthy document full of legalese, an experienced consumer attorney will know which standards apply in Virginia and will help in a particular case. In general, Article 2 of the UCC, which governs contracts for the sale of goods, applies to car buyers with significant non-compliance issues.

    How Can the UCC Help in a Lemon Law Claim?

    The areas of the UCC that can help bolster a Lemon Law claim are the provisions on tender, acceptance, rejection, and revocation. In simple terms, these provisions are as follows:

    • Tender. This gives consumers the right to refuse to accept any goods that do not comply with the contract. This is difficult with cars as most consumers are unable to identify mechanical problems on sight.  The UCC calls this "rejection", which must occur before you drive away.

    • Acceptance. When accepting goods, consumers are doing so with the assumption that the manufacturer will honor any warranty agreements.

    • Revocation. If, after a period of time, you discover that the car does not conform to the contract agreement, you may revoke your acceptance of the car.  In Virginia after notifying the seller in writing that you are revoking acceptance, you cannot continue to use the product.

    Virginia’s Lemon Law spells out the exact terms for returning a new car and recovering all expenses, so you would not need to invoke the UCC for a Lemon Law case in Virginia. However, if your case involves a dealership in a state that does not have a similar law, or the time to use the Lemon Law has expired, your attorney may be able to use provisions of the UCC to support your claim.

    Call The Consumer Law Group, P.C.

    If you are unable to settle a Lemon Law claim directly with the dealer or manufacturer, you may need the help of an experienced Virginia Lemon Law attorney. Fill out the claim form on this page and we will be in touch promptly.

     

  • How much do Lemon Law claims cost auto manufacturers?

    A Wooden Gavel on Top of a Stack of MoneyWhen you file a successful Lemon Law claim in Virginia, you are entitled to choose whether you want a replacement vehicle or a refund of the full contract price. When you choose a refund, you are also entitled to any additional expenses, otherwise known as “collateral charges” related to the purchase and operation of your vehicle for the time you had it. If you needed the services of an attorney for a successful resolution of your Lemon Law claim, the carmaker must also pay the legal fees. All told, the carmaker’s costs can add up to much more than just the cost of the vehicle.

    What Is Included in Collateral Charges

    On top of the purchase price of the vehicle, a carmaker must also refund the following additional expenses:

    • Sales tax

    • License fees

    • Registration fees

    • Title fees

    • Finance charges and interest

    • Transportation charges

    • Dealer preparation charges

    • Charges for service contracts, undercoating, rust proofing, or installed options, not recoverable from a third party

    If the vehicle you are returning was leased, you are also entitled to the following:

    • Capitalized cost reductions

    • Credits and allowances for any trade-in vehicles,

    • Fees to another to obtain the lease

    • Insurance or other costs expended by the lessor for the benefit of the lessee

    You are also entitled to a reimbursement of mileage, expenses, and reasonable loss of use necessitated by attempts to conform the motor vehicle to the express warranty.

    What This Means to the Manufacturer

    Using an actual case litigated by The Consumer Law Group several years ago, we will illustrate what this cost breakdown could end up looking like. In this case, a woman made a Lemon Law claim on a high-mileage vehicle that was nonetheless still under warranty. Our firm demanded a payment of $15,000 to pay off the loan and legal fees totaling approximately $15,000. The automaker refused, counter offering at $5,000. The claim went to court, and the jury found for the plaintiff and ordered the carmaker to pay the following:

    • $33,829.59 for payments made to date, to pay off the loan, and for court costs, minus $2,051.17 for mileage

    • $23,260 in legal fees

    • $55,028.59 total cost to manufacturer

    Considering that the original purchase price of the vehicle was around $20,000, the Lemon Law claim clearly cost the manufacturer much more than a straightforward refund would have cost them.

    There Are No Guarantees in Lemon Law Cases

    When carmakers fight back against Lemon Law claims, they can end up making big payouts. As Lemon Law attorneys, our primary goal is to get you a new car or the money you are entitled to, but when we have a legitimate claim and the manufacturer disagrees, they risk losing large sums of money and our clients can benefit.

     

  • Why do I need to keep my automotive repair shop order receipts?

    When you discover your new car is a lemon, the burden will be on you to prove that to the manufacturer or in a legal proceeding later on. You will be required to present evidence of repeated repair attempts with an authorized repair shop. If you have been keeping accurate records since your first problem with the car, this should not be a problem.

    Dealer Repair Orders

    Each time you take your car into the dealership for a repair under warranty, the dealer is required to give you a receipt for the work performed. You are Automotive Repair Order With a Pen and Set of Keysentitled by law to a copy of all warranty work done on your vehicle, even when no repairs are performed. Even if the vehicle has just been inspected or test-driven, you should ask for a receipt. The dealer should be able to provide you with an itemized, legible statement including all diagnostic and repair work completed. The statement should include the following:

    • A general description of the problem reported by the owner

    • A diagnosis or identification of the defect or condition

    • An itemization of parts replaced

    • A description and accounting of labor

    • Date of repair

    • Odometer reading at time of repair

    • Date vehicle was returned to the owner

    Each time your vehicle is looked at by the dealership, you should ask for a copy of the repair order and keep it in a safe place. These orders will serve as your evidence should you need to present a lemon law case.

    What You Should Do at the Repair Shop

    When you take your vehicle into the dealership with a complaint, be sure to do the following:

    • Give the service writer a clear description of all the warranty problems you are experiencing.

    • If you have a problem that comes and goes, be as detailed as possible in describing the nature and frequency of the problem and the situation when it occurs.

    • Make sure the service writer takes down all of the information you provided.

    • Leave a written summary of this information for the service writer.

    • When picking up your vehicle after repairs are complete, review the repair order to make sure all your complaints were listed, even if the dealer says no problem found.  

    When a consumer keeps complete records of repair attempts, making a lemon law claim can be a simple process that is easily resolved to the consumer’s benefit. A lack of records will harm a legitimate claim. It may be up to you to insist on receipts for every repair, but you are within your rights to do so.

     

  • When is it legal to repossess a car in Virginia?

    Vehicle repossession laws in Virginia are fairly simple. If you fail to make a payment on your car loan, your vehicle can be repossessed by the lender or a third party authorized by the lender. However, you have rights during this process and there are steps you can take to prevent your car from being repossessed.

    If You Can’t Pay, Notify the Lender

    If you know you are not going be able to make a payment on time, contact the creditor right away. If your creditor believes, based on your past history, that you will be able to make the payment by the date you give, they may work with you. You may even be able to negotiate a revised schedule of payments going forward that are more manageable for you. If you do manage to negotiate a change to your original loan contract, get the new agreement in writing to prevent problems later. It is always easier to try to prevent a seizure than to get your car back after it is already gone.

    Your Rights Under Virginia Law

    Your loan contract should specify exactly what constitutes a default that could lead to a repossession. Be sure you understand the terms of your contract Tow Truck Towing a Repossed Carbefore you miss a payment. Some contracts allow for a seizure of your vehicle as soon as you miss your first payment. In Virginia, lenders do not have to notify you prior to repossessing your vehicle. Repossession agents are permitted to come on to your property to take your vehicle, but are banned from doing any of the following:

    • Using physical force

    • Threatening physical force

    • Breaking into a closed garage or gated area

    If an agent does any of these things, his employer may be required to pay a penalty and the actions may become a legal defense for you later on. Before your repossessed car is resold, the creditor must notify you of the date and time of the sale to allow you time to make the required payments to get the car back. If the creditor sells your car for more than you owed on it, you may be entitled to a refund. If however, it is sold for less than what you owe, you may have to pay the difference.

    The Consumer Law Group, P.C. Can Offer Guidance

    Once you have defaulted on a car loan and lost possession of your car, there may not be much you can do to get it back. However, if you believe you have been treated unfairly or that laws were broken during the repossession process, contact our office. We will give you an honest assessment of your case.

     

  • What counts as a repair attempt under Virginia’s Lemon Law?

    Any time you have to return to the car dealership after purchasing a new car is a hassle, but when you are making repeated visits because of a problem with your new car, it is especially frustrating. Fortunately, there may be something you can do. If you have taken your car in repeatedly to have the same mechanical or safety defect fixed, you may be able to return the car for a full refund or replacement. Under Virginia’s Lemon Law, any defect that is not fixed in a “reasonable number of repair attempts” is eligible for a claim. We explain what counts as a repair attempt here.

    It’s All in the Wording

    An Auto Mechanic Working on a CarVirginia’s Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, otherwise known as the Lemon Law, is a carefully worded document designed to give consumers legal rights when they purchase a defective new car. Our own John Cole Gayle co-authored the law, so he is well aware of what the language means. A key component of the law is that the car has not been fixed in a reasonable number of repair attempts. Virginia law further explains “reasonable” to mean three or more attempts in an 18-month period for a mechanical defect and one attempt for a serious safety issue. But what exactly counts as a repair attempt? What if you take it in for evaluation, but nothing is done?

    What Is a Repair Attempt?

    The first thing to be aware of is that all repair attempts must be made by an authorized repair shop, which usually means any authorized dealer for the manufacturer of your vehicles. In general, a repair attempt is the replacement or adjustment of a part or component to correct a defect or condition. If the dealership inspects or test-drives the vehicle without making any repairs, even though they claim "no problem found", and you later prove that the problem does exist, this visit would also count as a repair attempt. You will have to provide documentation of each visit to the dealership and what was done to the car to support your Lemon Law claim, so make sure you get a repair order for every repair, and that the days out of service and all the complaints you told the dealer about are listed.  

    The Consumer Law Group, P.C.  Is Your Lemon Law Firm

    Many Lemon Law claims can be easily resolved by the consumer by working directly with the automaker. However, when your legitimate claim is rejected, you may need a lawyer to back you up. We will help you gather documentation of every repair attempt to support your claim. Fill out the form on this page for a case evaluation.

     

  • Where should I take my new car for repairs?

    A Man Working at a Repair Shop DeskYou may not be expecting to have to take your brand new car in for repairs. After all, you decided to trade in your old car to avoid trips to the repair shop. Your new car should be perfect. However, when you find that there is an issue with your new car, it is important that you only take it to a dealer authorized by the manufacturer. If you don’t, you could lose your chance to file a Lemon Law claim if the defects are not repaired in a timely manner.

    Who Can Make a Repair to a New Car?

    Lemon Law claims apply to any “nonconformity” in a new car and may be anything from a fit-and-finish flaw to a major safety defect. All of these issues are covered under the manufacturer’s warranty and must be repaired by an authorized dealer—usually the dealership where you bought the car. It is important that you document all repair attempts and keep all receipts in order to support a Lemon Law claim down the road.  Before leaving the dealership with your repair order, make sure the information on it lists all the complaints you made even if there were no problems found.  Make sure the days out of service are noted and accurate.  Under the law, the dealer is required to give you a repair order.  

    What Could Void My Claim?

    Many drivers have tried-and-true mechanics whom they would trust with their lives. Unfortunately, for a new car repair, you will have to put your faith in the dealership instead. Remember that if they cannot repair it in a reasonable number of attempts, you could be eligible for a full refund or a new car under Virginia’s Lemon Law. To avoid losing that opportunity, avoid the following:

    • Making a repair yourself. You may be a skilled do-it-yourselfer, but don’t touch your new car! You should not have to fix anything on a new car, so take it in to the dealership for everything—even a problem you could easily fix yourself. Doing your own repairs could ruin your chances for a Lemon Law claim and void the warranty.

    • Going to your local mechanic. Your local mechanic may be certified and highly skilled, but wait until you’re past the time limit for filing a lemon law claim—usually 18 months—before you take your car to him for a repair.

    • Going to a chain shop. Chain repair shops may advertise that they are “certified,” but they are not authorized to make warranty repairs. Avoid these shops until your warranty has expired, and even then, you may want to only go to them for routine maintenance.

    You Can Trust an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney

    If you are getting push-back from a manufacturer on a legitimate Lemon Law claim, call the experienced Lemon Law attorneys at The Consumer Law Group. John C. Gayle co-wrote the law and he will evaluate your case and let you know if you have a legal claim. Fill out the form on this page to get started.

     

  • What are unauthorized modifications under Virginia’s lemon law?

    Not all new cars are perfect, although you expect them to be when you make the investment. When a new car has a defect that cannot be fixed after several repair attempts, the buyer can file a claim under the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, also known as the Lemon Law. Under this law, the buyer may get a full refund of all costs for the vehicle or a comparable replacement vehicle if he can prove that his new car is a lemon. There are some exceptions to the law, however, including any defect that has resulted from owner neglect, abuse, lack of maintenance, or modifications to the vehicle.

    What Constitutes Abuse or Neglect

    In order to make a claim under the lemon law, you must show that the car has a defect that impairs its use, safety, or resale value. The defect must have A New Black Carbeen caused by the manufacturer and be unfixable by authorized repair shops. If it is shown that your actions—or inaction, in some cases—caused the defect, you will not have a claim under the lemon law. Examples of new car abuse include driving the car off-road, consistent harsh braking or acceleration, excessive speed or reckless driving, or crashing the car. A history of moving violations could be all the proof needed to reject your claim. Not maintaining the vehicle through regular oil changes and fluid checks as required by the manufacturer could constitute neglect and also void your claim.

    Unauthorized Modifications

    Any modification that would void your new car warranty would also void your lemon law claim. If you install a supercharger in your engine and the engine later fails, you would not be able to claim a manufacturer’s defect if the supercharger is found to be the cause of the failure.  This is a bit of a gray area, however, as many modifications people make to new cars have no effect on parts of the car that tend to break down. For example, an aftermarket exhaust has no effect on the engine and fancy rims will not affect power steering, but a dealer could claim that you made unauthorized modifications and therefore gave up your chance of a lemon law claim.  The dealer has to prove a connection between the modification and the defect, but you may not get that far with your case without the help of a lawyer.

    The Consumer Law Group Will Tell You If You Have a Claim

    John Cole Gayle, Jr. is a co-author of Virginia’s Lemon Law. He knows what a strong claim is and whether you may have blown your chances with a modification to your new car. Fill out the “Do you have a claim?” form on this page to get started.

     

  • Will I have to pay legal fees in a lemon law case?

    When you hire an attorney to handle your lemon law case, you will not have to pay a retainer or legal fees up front, nor will you have to give up a percentage of your award to your attorney. This is because, according to the lemon laws in every state, the manufacturer of the defective vehicle is responsible for any and all legal fees, over and above the plaintiff’s award.

    Finding the Right Attorney

    Legal Fees Jar Overflowing With Change

    Just because you will not have to pay the attorney out of your own pocket doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose your lemon law attorney carefully. Lemon laws are unique in every state and it is not an area of law that is generally covered in law school. Attorneys who do not specialize in lemon law may be willing to take your case, but this is never a good idea. A few red flags to look for when choosing an attorney for your lemon law claim include:

     
    • Seeking a percentage of your award. Your lemon law attorney should itemize his expenses and fees for your case and submit them to the manufacturer for payment above the monetary award of your claim. Therefore, no money is taken from your award to pay an attorney unless you agree to it.

    • No experience with the lemon law. If a law firm does not advertise itself as lemon law specialists, avoid using them. You want a law firm with experience making lemon law claims, not one that is just looking for an easy case.

    • Avoid National Lemon Law Firms that we call "mills".  They make their money based on the quantity of clients they get.  You rarely speak to an attorney, instead, you get an assistant.  Most importantly since they deal with so many clients they do not want to force the manufacturer to pay all your money back and instead encourage you to accept a cash settlement in which you get to keep your "lemon" car.  

    • Taking your case sight unseen. A trustworthy lemon law attorney will make sure you have taken the proper preliminary steps for a lemon law claim and will review your case to make sure you have a valid claim. If you don’t have a valid claim, he will not take your case and you do not risk losing.

    John C. Gayle, Jr. Wrote the Law

    The Consumer Law Group founder, John Gayle, co-authored the legislation that became Virginia’s lemon law. He will not take a case that is not a valid claim.  Fill out the Do You Have a Claim? the contact form on this page to get started.

     

  • Is new farm equipment covered under Virginia’s Lemon Law?

    Tractors and combines are major investments for farmers and they are completely justified in asking about warranties and return policies when they purchase new equipment. When you are spending an average of $75,000 on a new tractor or over $300,000 for a new combine, you want to be sure the quality is guaranteed. Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia agrees and offers lemon law coverage for farm equipment, much like its lemon law coverage for cars and trucks.

    What Exactly Is Covered?

    Virginia law allows for the protection of consumers against defective agricultural equipment. It defines agricultural equipment as any “self-propelled vehicle designed primarily for and used in the occupation or business of farming.” In other words, any machinery that is driven like a car or truck and used for farming purposes is covered under the lemon law. This may include:

    • Tractors

    • Harvesters, including combines

    • Front-end loaders

    • Hay balers

    In order to make a claim under the lemon law, you will have to provide proof that the vehicle is used primarily for farming.

    Does the Lemon Law Apply?

    No, but other breach of warranties laws do.  Although many farmers are not aware of it, the breach of warranty law as it applies to farm equipment is similar to the breach of warranty for other vehicles. Once you New Piece of Farm Equiptmentdiscover that the tractor or combine does not conform to the written warranty and have notified the manufacturer, the manufacturer or its agents have a limited number of attempts to repair the nonconformity. If the manufacturer or its authorized dealers do not fix the problem after a reasonable number of attempts, they are required by law to replace the equipment with comparable equipment acceptable to the consumer, charging the consumer only a reasonable allowance for the consumer's prior use of the equipment, or accept the return of the equipment from the consumer and refund the cash purchase price, including sales tax, license fees, registration fees and any similar governmental charges. With such a major purchase, this is obviously a significant benefit to be aware of.

    Contact an Experienced Lemon Law Attorney

    Timing is key when applying the lemon law, so as soon as you run into trouble with getting your tractor or combine repaired under warranty, contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.   John Gayle wrote Virginia’s lemon law and he will try his best to what you deserve.

     

  • What expenses are not recoverable under Virginia’s Lemon Law?

    The Virginia Warranty Enforcement Act, also known as the Lemon Law, protects consumers from purchasing new vehicles with significant mechanical problems. Any defect or condition that significantly impairs the use, market value or safety of a new car, truck, motorcycle, moped, or motorhome chassis is covered under the law. The defect must be discovered within 18 months of the date you took delivery of the new vehicle and must be reported to the manufacturer. If the manufacturer or its authorized agents cannot fix the defect in a reasonable number of attempts, it must replace the car or refund the cost, plus other expenses.

    What Is Not Refunded

    Deducted from your refund will be a reasonable allowance for your use of the vehicle up to the date on which you first noticed the mechanical problem and advised the dealer.   If for example, the car was in good working order for a year and then something went wrong that could not be repaired by the dealer, a usage fee for that Refund Signyear will be deducted from your refund. This amount is determined by the manufacturer, but by law cannot exceed half the amount allowed per mile by the Internal Revenue Service for use of a personal vehicle for business purposes. For 2016, the IRS mileage rate is 54 cents per mile, so you could not be charged more than 27 cents per mile up to the date of notice to the dealer.    An additional amount may also be deducted to cover any loss of fair market value caused by damage beyond normal wear and tear not caused by the defect in question. In other words, if you bumped into a light pole and dented the bumper, that cost would be deducted from your refund.

    Keep Your Repair Orders

    Since you have to prove the date of notice to the dealer, the repair order from the dealer is the best evidence, so always get a copy and save it.  Check the information on it before you leave to confirm the mileage and days out of service and that all the complaints you made are accurately listed.

    What Is Refunded

    Despite the usage deduction, a successful lemon law claim will get you a significant refund. Along with the purchase price of the car, you will also be reimbursed for license and registration fees, finance charges, dealer prep charges, cost of dealer add-ons, and more. When you work with an experienced Lemon Law attorney, you will ensure that you get a complete refund of all expenses. In addition, the manufacturer will be required to pay your legal fees. If you are struggling to make a Lemon Law claim, call The Consumer Law Group today.

     

  • What are the chances I will end up buying a used car that was donated to a charity?

    You’ve heard the ads and seen the billboards: Donate your used car to charity and get a tax deduction. Clearly, this appeals to many people as over Car Keys Sitting on Top of American Money700,000 cars and trucks are donated to charities nationwide each year. Most of these vehicles are donated because they are not worth enough for the owner to make the effort to sell them privately. This may leave you wondering, where do all these used cars go? And, even more importantly, if I buy a used car for my teenager, what are the odds it was one of these broken-down charity cars? It turns out, the odds are probably pretty low.

    How Does a Donation Work?

    Most car donations work in a similar way. Someone sees a billboard on the highway and calls the posted number. They are asked a few questions about the car—although most charities will take any used car—and arrangements are made for the car to be picked up. The donor transfers the title of ownership and gets a receipt verifying the donation. The minimum tax write-off for the donor is $500, but he or she will have to itemize their deductions in order to take advantage of the deduction.

    What Do Charities Do With Donated Cars?

    According to charity insiders, there are several options for the cars that are donated. None of these options are likely to send a car to a typical used car lot, so buyers are not at great risk of buying one of these clunkers. Donated cars may be:

    1. Sold for parts. Most donated cars have a mechanical problem that makes it unlikely to be resold. A charity can get more money out of the car by selling individual parts.

    2. Used by the charity. If a donated car is in decent working condition, it may be used by the charity for programs like Meals on Wheels, or given to a needy family.

    3. Sold “as-is.” Some of the cars are sold to new buyers, but usually at auction and under a clear as-is policy.

    While there is some controversy surrounding the tax write-offs and actual profitability to charities of car donation programs, there has not been a backlash from cheated used car buyers. You should always conduct a title search when buying a used car to make sure it was not flood-damaged or salvaged at any point it its history, but you are fortunately not likely to be stuck with a donated clunker.

     

  • Does a car dealer have to tell you about problems or damage with vehicles it sells?

    In short, the answer is yes. IF the dealer knows about a problem and it is considered “significant” or “material”.

    The Virginia Consumer Protection Act not only covers affirmative misrepresentations, but also affords you protections if the product is blemished, defective used, repossessed, deteriorated, or “not first class”, the supplier or dealer must clearly and unequivocally indicate in the offer for sale that those goods are blemished, defective used, repossessed, deteriorated, or “not first class”. Such a failure to disclose gives rise to a concealment claim, as well as a claim for fraud, or deception. A concealment claim, whether for fraud or under the VCPA, however, has been interpreted as requiring the consumer to prove that the concealment was deliberate.

    Moreover, a dealer’s willful nondisclosure of a material fact that it knows is unknown to the other party may evince an intent to practice actual fraud.

    How To Prove a Dealer Is Not Disclosing Issues With a Vehicle

    This may sound easier than it is to prove because the dealer, when confronted by you about a problem you discover after the sale will usually deny that it knew about it, or will claim this problem occurred AFTER you bought it. They will also claim you never even asked about any problems or prior damage, which you should always do.

    Be alert to a dealer that will use a “clean” Carfax as proof the vehicle has no problems. If it does this, and knows the car has problems, then that is fraud. Furthermore, all dealers know that Carfax’s database is full of holes and a clean report does NOT mean the car has never been in an accident or damaged. It just mean that the sources Carfax uses are not reporting it yet.

    So always, if possible, have someone with you when negotiating to buy a vehicle, to confirm that you asked whether the vehicle has ever been damaged or in an accident or has any problems.in the event the dealer says you never asked. And even if you did not ask, the dealer does have a duty to disclose this material or significant information if it knows about this problem.

  • How do payday lenders violate consumers’ rights?

    Many people seeking a loan from a short-term, high-interest lender do so because they are desperate. They may need to pay rent to avoid being evicted or pay a utility bill to prevent discontinuation of services. No matter what the reason, these consumers are entitled to the same protections as any other borrower under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Unfortunately, payday lenders are notorious for violating this act when collecting on loans.

    How Payday Loans Work

    A payday loan is actually a cash advance secured by a personal check or paid by electronic funds transfer. The transaction works Green Payday Loans Sign With a Blue Sky Backgroundlike this: the borrower writes a personal check to the lender for the amount he wants to borrow plus the fee he must pay. The lender gives the borrower the amount of the check, less the fee, and agrees to hold the personal check until the loan is due—usually on the borrower’s next payday. Some cash advance companies also offer an electronic option where funds are transferred into the borrower’s bank account and then withdrawn by the lender on the borrower’s payday. The cost of these transactions is very high, especially when the loans are extended or rolled-over beyond the initially agreed-upon due date. It is not unusual for a borrower to pay, for example, $60 in fees and interest to borrow $100.

    How These Lenders Violate the FDCPA

    Attorneys in many states have successfully won settlements against various payday lenders due to unfair lending and debt collection practices. Some common violations made by these companies include:

    • Excessive phone calling

    • Calling outside allowable hours

    • Becoming verbally abusive over the phone

    • Threatening police action

    • Disclosing private information to unauthorized parties

    • Providing misleading or dishonest information

    Even if desperate circumstances led you to take a payday loan and you are struggling to pay it back, you are still entitled to protections from abusive debt collection tactics. No lender, even a strip-mall cash advance company, is allowed to harass and threaten you in an attempt to collect a debt.

    Seek Alternatives to Payday Lenders

    Our best advice is to avoid borrowing from cash advance lenders altogether. However, if you’re already in debt to one of these companies, you can take legal action to stop the harassment and, if you can prove any other illegal practices on their part—such as failure to disclose loan costs and interest rates—you may be able to seek damages. Fill out the form on this page and let us know how a payday lender has violated your rights. We will let you know if you have a case.

     

  • What extra protections does the Fair Credit Reporting Act provide for active duty military personnel?

    When you joined the military, you probably thought the biggest dangers you would face would be while guarding a military base, patrolling in a Middle Eastern country, or manning an aircraft carrier overseas. However, your training has prepared you for this Military Branch Patchespossibility, and you are confident that you will be able to protect American interests as you have pledged to do.

    But who is protecting your interests back home? While you are away, you are just as vulnerable to identity theft as anybody else, and may be even more so considering that your accounts sit idle for long periods of time and you have no way to check for possible unauthorized activity. You should be aware, however, that there is a way to protect yourself from identity theft and it is provided to you under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). It’s called Active Duty Alerts.

    How Active Duty Alerts Work

    Whenever you are called to active duty, all you have to do is contact one of the three credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—and notify them that you are going on active duty. They will be required under the FCRA to place an Active Duty Alert on your credit report and to report your status to the other two agencies. Once this is done, you will be alerted if anyone attempts to open a line of credit in your name. This works as follows:

    • Someone uses your identifying information to try to open a credit card.

    • The loan officer or credit card company representative pulls your credit report to see if you qualify for credit.

    • The representative sees that you have an Active Duty Alert on your report.

    • The representative is now required to verify the identity of the person applying by either asking for a photo identification or by calling the contact number provided on the credit report.

    • You, or your designated stateside representative, will be called to verify the application for credit.

    • If a credit report is pulled by anyone for any reason, you will be notified.

    • The alert will be active for one year, unless you cancel it, and may be extended for another year if you have not returned from active duty within the year.

    With these protections in place, you can be confident that your identity is safe while you are serving your country. If anything does go wrong, you may need the help of an attorney to straighten things out.

    The Consumer Law Group Can Help Clear Your Credit

    If you experience problems with correcting misinformation on your credit report, we are here to help. We are proud to work with members of the military from the Richmond area and look forward to hearing from you. Call our office at 804-282-7900.

     

  • Why do I have different credit scores and what do they mean?

    Everyone seems to want to know your credit score—banks, lenders, landlords, even your employer. You hear friends and family members brag about their scores, but you don’t even know what your score is. How important is a good score? Where can you find out what your score is? We answer all those questions here.

    Free Credit Reports

    If you don’t know what your score is, the first step is to get a free copy of your credit report. You are entitled to one free report each year from each of the three national credit reporting agencies (CRA): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each of these agencies differs slightly in the kind of information they gather, so it is recommended that you check each report every year. Along with information on bank accounts and lines of credit in your name, the reports will also give you a credit rating, or score.

    What Do the Numbers Mean?

    When people refer to their credit score, they are most likely talking about their FICO score. Fair Isaac, Inc., invented the three-Credit Score on a Computer Monitordigit credit scoring system in the 1980s and their score is the one lenders most often use to evaluate your application for credit. To calculate your score, FICO takes information from each of the three CRAs and determines a separate credit rating for each CRA. In other words, your FICO score from Equifax may not be the same number as your score from TransUnion, but they will be close. FICO uses a scale from 300 to 850. While every lender sets their own cutoff points, a FICO score above 750 is generally considered to be excellent and a score below 600 is considered to be poor.

    To make matters confusing, however, when you order a free credit report from one of the three CRAs, the score you will see will be one that the agencies created called the VantageScore. While this system is gaining popularity among lenders, it is still not as commonly used as the FICO score. Originally based on a scale of 501-990, VantageScore is now on a scale from 300 to 850, like the FICO scale. Again, your VantageScore may differ slightly among the three credit reporting agencies, but the numbers should be close.

    VantageScore and FICO weigh various factors differently when determining a score, but what they have in common is that the higher your score is, the better it is for you when you are applying for credit.

    Lenders that we often deal with will not consider a mortgage on your house with a score less than 620.  So it is important to get any incorrect negative information off of your credit report.

    We Can Help You Correct Credit Report Errors

    The information on your credit reports and the various credit scores assigned to you are very important to your financial future. If there are errors on any of your credit reports, it’s important that you take action to correct the errors. We can help. Contact our office in Richmond at (804) 282-7900 to find out how.

     

  • Will using the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Line program resolve my Lemon Law claim?

    If you purchased or leased a new car in Virginia and discovered that it had significant problems that needed to be repaired, you A Woman Standing by a Broken Down Car With Her Head on Her Handsmay qualify for a replacement of the vehicle or refund of the purchase or lease price under Virginia’s Lemon Law. One option available to you to remedy the situation is to use the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Auto Line dispute resolution program.

    How Does Auto Line Work?

    As a free service to consumers, the Auto Line program will present your claim to the appropriate manufacturer and follow up as needed. In Virginia, nearly every major automotive manufacturer cooperates with Auto Line. A complete list can be found here. The basic steps of the process are as follows:

    1. Contact the BBB and give them your name and address; the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) of the vehicle in question; the make, model, and year of the vehicle; and a brief description of the problem.

    2. You will be notified when the information has been received. You may be asked for additional information such as Customer Claim Form or a copy of the vehicle’s registration.

    3. The BBB will notify the manufacturer of your claim and begin an investigation.

    4. You may be contacted by a representative of the manufacturer to discuss a settlement.  You may work directly with the manufacturer or you may request a Dispute Resolution Specialist from the BBB.

    5. It is important to know what remedy you are entitled to under Virginia's Lemon Law or other statutes in order to determine if the decision of the BBB's arbitration should be accepted.  Contact us to help you learn your legal rights before deciding whether to accept the BBB's decision.  

    6. If you are not happy with the settlement offer, you may proceed to arbitration. During this process, you may be asked to provide service and repair records, copies of correspondence with dealers, agents, or representatives, photographs or other evidence of the problem—in other words, you will have to prepare a case.

    If at any point you are not happy with the way things are going, you are free to stop the process. In some cases, consumers are offered a fair settlement at step 4 and the case is resolved. If this does not happen for you, you should consider contacting an attorney rather than pursuing the case on your own through the BBB.

    Choose The Consumer Law Group to Represent You

    If your claim is not quickly resolved by the Auto Line program, you will probably need the help of an experienced Lemon Law attorney. Under Virginia law, the manufacturer is responsible for all court costs and legal fees, including paying the claimant’s attorney, so you will not have to pay for our services out of your own pocket. If you believe you have a lemon, start with the BBB. If that does not easily settle your dispute, call the Consumer Law Group at 804-282-7900. We can take it from there.