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 is a reasonable number of repair attempts before a car manufacturer has to replace my vehicle?
When a consumer purchases a vehicle in Virginia, the purchase may be covered by the lemon law. This law is designed to protect car buyers from the purchase of defective vehicles. Under the law, if the manufacturer is unable to fix a problem with a new vehicle after a “reasonable” number of repair attempts, the manufacturer must replace or repurchase the vehicle. As the car buyer, you are entitled to choose whether you want a refund or a replacement vehicle.
Reasonable Repair Attempts Under the Virginia Lemon Law
What constitutes a reasonable number of repair attempts under the law? The lemon law presumes that a reasonable number of attempts have been made if, within 18 months of when the vehicle was originally delivered, any of the following occurs:
- The same problem has been subject to repair three or more times, and the problem still exists.
- The problem is a serious safety defect, involving a life-threatening malfunction that impedes the owner’s ability to control or operate the vehicle for ordinary use or reasonable intended purposes, or if it creates a risk of fire or explosion, and the problem has been subject to repair one or more times but still persists.
- The vehicle has been out of service as a result of the problem for a cumulative total of 30 calendar days. The exception to this requirement is if the repairs could not be performed as a result of conditions beyond the control of the manufacturer, such as war, invasion, strike, fire, flood, or natural disaster.
If you meet any of the above criteria, you may be entitled to the replacement or repurchase of your vehicle. During the time in which you are waiting for the replacement or repurchase to occur, you are also entitled to continue using the defective vehicle.
How do I find the VIN on my vehicle?
So, where can you find the VIN on your vehicle in order to order a vehicle history report from AutoCheck? The VIN can often be found on the lower-left corner of the dashboard, in front of the steering wheel. You can read the number by looking through the windshield. The VIN may also appear in a number of other locations. Here is a list of some of the possible places to look:
- At the front of the engine block. This should be easy to spot b popping open the hood, and looking at the front of the engine.
- At the front of the car frame, near the container that holds windshield washer fluid.
- At a rear wheel well. Try looking up direction above the tire.
- Inside the driver-side doorjamb. Open the door, and look underneath where the side-view mirror would be located if the door was shut.
- At the driver-side door post. Open the door, and look near the spot where the door latches, not too far from the seat belt return.
- Underneath the spare tire.
What are my rights if my car is recalled?
A recall does not mean you get a new car or get your money back. It means that whatever part is subject to the recall will be replaced or repaired for free - even if your warrnaty has expired. If the part is recalled, the manufacturer has agreed to fix it for free.
A recall does not mean the manufacturer has to pay you money. It is however, good evidence that the symptom you have been complaining about, and which the manufacturer or authorized dealer may be saying it cannont duplicate or is past the warranty period, does exist and will be fixed, thus giving you an upperhand in any contemplated demand for a refund, or damages for injuries incurred from any kind of accident resulting from the defect. If you have suffered injuries or damages due to this defect, wait until you talk to an attorney before you get it fixed since you probably will need to show the defective aprts to the manufacturer and the jury in the litigation that may have to be filed.
If you have suffered any kind of loss due to a problem recalled, or any injury give us a call. (804) 282-7900.
What is a automotive recall and how does it happen?
Recently General Motors has been pummelled by bad publicity about it's refusal to recall a minor, inexpensive part, even though it knew it might lead to unsafe conditions of the cars affected. Supposedly 13 or more deaths occured because of defective ignitions. If the car went over something like a speed bump that jarred the ignition switch it would cause the car to cut off. The vehicle would then lose all power to the brakes, steering, windows etc.
What exactly is a recall and what are your rights if your car is recalled?
Anything you ca buy can be recalled - e.g. baby seats, batteries, and of course, automobiles.
An automotive recall is how a manufacturer tells you that you may have a car that presents a risk of injury or property damage. These recalls are intended to fix known problems with vehicles in order to keep roads and people safe, since car accidents are the largest killer of Americans under the age of 34, and about 42,000 deaths are recorded each year on U.S. highways (source: Office of Defects Investigation (ODI)). Some of those lives could be saved by repairing unsafe vehicles or removing them from the roads. But who has the authority to do something like that?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sets the national safety standards for vehicles and can influence or order an auto manufacturer to repair safety-related defects at no cost to the consumer. Even if the fix is something as minor as a missing washer or a faulty electrical connections, the manufacutrer stands to lose millions of dollars in the process -- it all depends on the number of cars and trucks affected by the recall, the cost of the replacement parts and the time it takes a technician to make the repair. So, as you can imagine, the automotive industry sometimes resists the idea of undergoing a full-scall recall.
With that in mind, how does an automotive recall begin? And, other that the NHTSA, is there anyone else involved?
Starting U.S Automotive Recalls: Contacting the NHTSA
Some auto manufacturers make the first move when discovering potential faults or hazards in their cars or trucks, willingly starting the recall process on their own. Other companies need a little push from the NHTSA or even the courts to start the recall process. The NHTSA recall process often starts when people discover flaws in vehicles they own or work on. If you find a potential hazard in your car or truck, you can get in touch with the NHTSA and report your safety concerns.
There are three methods you can use to contact the NHTSA if you suspect a safety-related defect in your vehicle. You can take any or all of the following actions:
- Call the U.S. Department of Transportation's Vehicle Safety Hotline: (888) 327-4236 or (800) 424-9153, toll free from anywhere in the US, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- Report the issue online at the NHTSA's vehicle safety Website: http://www.safercar.gov
- Send a letter via US Mail to: U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Office of Defects Investigation (NVS-210), 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590
If you file a complaint, there's a chance you may be contacted by an investigator from the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI). The ODI, an office within the NHTSA conducts defect investigations to support the NHTSA's efforts. But that's not all it does. ODI investigators keep a close watch on manufactures' recall operations too.
If enough consumers file a report about the same issue with the same make, model and year of vehicle, the NHTSA may decide to open an investigation.
What do I do about judgments on my credit report that I know nothing about?
If you find your wages garnished, or you are getting debt collector calls due to a judgment you know nothing about, or a judgment is on your credit report that you know nothing about, what do you do?
This can be a complicated process. If you did not appear at the trial for a debt, a "default judgment" was obtained against you. This means that since you did not appear, and since the court had information that the lawsuit was "served" on you, it deemed that you had notice of the lawsuit and simply chose not to appear to disputed the alleged debt. Assuming you did not know about this trial because the address that the "process" (a legal term for the warrant in debt or Complaint in which the creditor alleged you broke the law and owed it money) was served was not where you lived, and if you did not know about the upcoming trial, then you have a right to file a Motion To Rehear in the same court in which the trial occurred. The grounds for getting the judgment "set aside" (which should stop any garnishment attempts by the creditor), is that the "service" of the process was never properly made on you, and since you did not know about the trial date, you did not appear. The clerk may have the Motion to Rehear form, which you fill out, providing the reason for the motion (i.e. you did not live at the address on which the file indicates the "process" was served), and that you do not owe what the creditor claims you owe. So you also request that you want the judgment set aside and another trial date set so you can have your day in court. If garnishment proceedings have been filed, but no money was actually paid to the creditor, then ask the clerk to ask the judge to postpone the garnishment hearing until your Motion To Rehear has been heard. You then get a hearing date from the clerk, at which you need to appear with any documents and witnesses that can prove you did not live at the address that the original complaint or warrant in debt was served.
The car dealer is telling me I have to return my car because my financing did not go through, what do I do?
In Virginia, every car sale between the public and a dealer must use a Buyer's Order for the sale that states that if the loan does not go through, and the dealer asks you to bring the car back, and you bring the car back within 24 hours, you are entitled to all your down payment and your trade in. If the dealer tries to get you to sign another, more expensive contract, do not do it unless you really want the car and can afford the new contract. There is absolutely no obligation for you to go through with the purchase unless the dealer offers you the same terms as you originally agreed to. There should be no deductions from your down payment whatsoever. Just get your money and go somewhere else.
If the dealer fails to give you your tradein (or the same amount of money that it was worth) or your money back, then it has violated Virginia law, and you can sue them and get legal fees as well, and possibly up to three times your loss! Do not try to do this yourself, once the dealer calls and asks for his car back, give us a call to help you through this process.
Important, before you give the car back, get all purchase documents out of th car for your attorney's records so we can make sure what everyone agreed to. Check your credit report to make sure it has not reported you as delinquent. If they have reported you as late this could violate federal law.
Does my lender need to give me notice before they repossess my car?
It gets a bit confusing. To reposses a car based on a car title loan, then yes, 10 days notice is required. Otherwise no notifcation is required.
What is the difference between a Creditor and a Debt Collector?
A Creditor is the company you have the original debt with. They are not subject to FDCPA. A debt collector is a company who is trying to collect a debt you owe to a Creditor. If they are harassing you, they can be in violation of the FDCPA.
Can a debt collector garnish my wages or bank account?
If you don't pay a debt, a debt collector generally can sue you to collect the money due. If they win, the court then enters a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount due and allows the collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.
Wage garnishment happens when you employer withholds part of your paycheck to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order.
Do not ignore a lawsuit summons!!! If you do, you lose the chance to fight a wage garnishment.
What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. This can be related to credit fraud or identity theft.
*You must be told if information in your file has been used against you.
*You have the right to know what is in your file.
*You have the right to ask for a credit score.
*You have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information.
*Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information.
*Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information.
*Access to your file is limited.
*You must give your consent for reports to be provided to employers.
*You may limit "prescreened" offers of credit and insurance you get based on information in your credit report.
*You may seek damages from violaters.
*Identity theft victims and active duty military personnel have additional rights.
For more information on any of these points please contact us.
Can a debt collector tell other people about my debt?
A debt collector can contact other people only to find out contact information about you, for example: your address, home phone number or where you work. They are usually prohibited from contacting a third party more than once and they may not tell them they are trying to collect a debt. Generally a debt collector is not allowed to discuss your debt with anyone other than you and your spouse, and your attorney. If the debt collector has been told that you have an attorney representing you the debt collector must contact the attorney instead of you.
I have been forced into arbitration, what can I do?
If you are being forced into arbitration in a lemon law, auto fraud, debt collection or a consumer case, and you did not know that in the contract you signed you gave up your right to confront the manufacturer, seller, debt collector or creditor for it's violations in court, in front of a jury or judge, you have a voice.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is required under the Dodd Frank legislation to study arbitration and make recomendations for rulemaking. The CFPB has begun work on this study. The National Association of Consumers Advocates(NACA) needs yourhelp to collect information that might be helpful in demonstrating the widespread practice of binding mandatory arbitration in consumer transactions and how arbitration prevents people from pursuing a legal remedy to their problem.
Here's how you can help:
1. Send NACA arbitration clauses. It is helpful to collect and examine arbitration clauses where a dispute is involved and the cause is actually at issue.
2. Send them your stories and concrete experiences of how arbitration has prevented you from pursuing your rights. These can included:
a. Cases that can no longer be pursued because of the arbitration clause.
b. Good cases you or your lawyer did not pursue because of an arbitration clause.
c. Cases either dismissed or sent to arbitration.
3. Please send NACA the names of cases.
Send this to:
Delicia Reynolds Hand
National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA)
1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Suite 710
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 452-1989 ext. 103
What can I do if I regret my car purchase?
There is no cooling off period when it comes to buying a car. If you want to get out of a car purchase, the only way is to prove the car dealer committed fraud in the sale of the purchase. This is called a fradulently induced contract, it does not matter if it was sold AS IS. If auto fraud induced you to buy the car, then you can cancel the deal and get your money back. If you feel you have been lied to during the process of buying your car and the car dealer committed auto fraud, please contact us at The Consumer Law Group.
What do I do if a car dealer lied to me?
Car Dealers often make misrepresentations in the sale and financing of cars. There are so many different ways Car Dealers and Manufacturers break the law in an auto sale, that we cannot answer the question in just one way. Did they commit Auto Fraud in Virginia, or violate the Virginia Lemon Law? Send us your questions, and we will try and help you.
What is the Virginia Consumer Protection Act?
The Virginia Consumer Protection Act is a statute similar to statutes in almost all other 50 states, called Uniform Deceptive Acts and Practices statutes. These statutes vary from state to state. Generally, they prohibit any misreprentation, fraud, false promises or unfair acts in a consumer transaction. Generally these statutes apply to any transaction involving products or services to be used primarily for personal, family or household purposes, and they apply to any "supplier", which may be the immediate seller, or even a remote seller or manufacturer, that uses a dealer to supply it's goods or services. These statutes usually provide the possible recovery of legal fees for willful or unintenional violations, and the recovery of punitive damages (damages to punish the worngdoer).
How did debt collectors get my cell phone number?
Have you been getting harassed by debt collectors calling your cell phone, but you don’t even know how they got your number? Oftentimes, a consumer will provide their cell phone number on the initial credit application. It’s easy to not remember every single thing that you provided on an application, and these invasive calls can be quite surprising. However, if you did not give the creditor your cell number on your application for credit, then they may not call you on your cell phone. For each time they call your cell phone you can recover up to $500 in damages, up to a maximum of $1500.
Creditors Are Not Afraid To Go Digging For Your Number If You Didn’t Provide It
There are places on the internet where you can research someone's cell phone number if you have their name and general area where they live. The most common way debt collectors get your cell number is when you call them back on your cell phone when you get a collection letter. They then "trap" your cell phone number.
If This Has Happened to You, This Is What You Should Do:
- Save the record of the phone number that called to your cell. If you know how, you should also download the messages with a date and time stamp.
- Save any messages they leave you; they show who made the call and when, and sometimes the messages themselves will violate other laws against harassing phone calls.
- Save your cell phone bills that have the numbers of the company that called your cell.
- Finally, contact us. If you think a debt collector is harassing you, your family, or calling your neighbors or your workplace about a debt you owe, call us at 804-282-7900. We can help.
Debt Collectors are calling my cell phone, what can I do?
The answer depends on the situation. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act says that companies, including debt collectors and your creditors, can't call your cell with an auto-dialer and if they do there is a penalty of $500 - $1500..... And that's for each call!
There are 2 exceptions:
1. The Calls must be from an auto dialer
2. You can't have given them express consent. (The creditor or debt collector get your express consent in the following way: when you applied for the credit card or bought the thing they are now going after you to pay for and you put your cell number on the application you gave them express consent.)
With the TCPA, the call does not have to be harassing. Any robo-call they make is against the law.
Contact us if you think a debt collector is harassing you, your family, or calling your neighbors or at work about a debt you owe.
How do I know if my car is a lemon?
If you have tried unsuccesfully to have your new vehicle, which was purchased in Virginia, repaired three or more times for the same problem, or the vehicle has been out of service for more that thirty days in one year, your vehicle may be classified as a lemon under the Virginia Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act. All claims must be filed within 18 months following the date you first received the vehicle.
Who is a debtor?
If you have a personal loan, home mortgage or automobile loan, or you use credit cards, you are a debtor who owes money to a creditor.
What legal action can I take against a debt collector?
If you believe a debt collector has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act you may sue the collector. To see if this is the case, look at the FDCPA here. Call us at (804)282-7900.