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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The manufacturer wants to give me an extended warranty instead of replacing my car. What happens if I accept it?
You probably will lose all your Lemon Law rights, so be very sure that you can live with the result. Extending the warranty is a very cheap way out for the manufacturer. All you really are getting is the promise that they'll take another "whack" when more things go wrong in the future.
I have a lemon and the manufacturer has agreed to replace it but it wants me to pay for the mileage. Do I have to do that?
No, the Lemon Law does not give the manufacturer the right to make you pay for the miles beyond the mileage on the first repair order for the problem you are complaining about - but they will try to get you to pay for it anyway, hoping you do not know your rights.
How many times do I have to give the dealer the chance to fix my car before it qualifies as a lemon?
Dealing with repeated repairs on your car is certainly frustrating, and particularly so when the repairs you’re making are on a car that you recently purchased. Fortunately, Virginia’s Lemon Law is very clear in defining what exactly constitutes a lemon, and how you can go about proving that the car you purchased qualifies. If your car is a lemon, you are entitled to a full refund of the purchase price of the vehicle, so maintaining records of all your repairs is a great idea.
There are 3 Ways that a Car Can Be Classified as a Lemon under Virginia Law
- If the same "significant" problem is worked on 3 times (i.e you have three separate repair orders) and still exists after that, then your car can be classified as a lemon.
- If your car has a life-threatening defect that affects its driveability, and the defect still exists after one repair attempt, then you have a lemon.
- If the vehicle has been in the shop 30 or more calendar days over the life of the vehicle for ANY problem or defect, and there is still something legitimately wrong with the car, then it's a lemon.
Once you have "notified" the manufacturer, in writing, no matter how many times it has tried to fix it before, there is one "final repair attempt" not to exceed 15 days to correct the problem. If after this time the problems still exist, then you definitely have a lemon and are entitled to a full refund. You can find instructions for giving notice to the manufacturer as well as a Sample Letter to Put the Manufacturer on Notice here.
Our Attorneys Can Handle Your Lemon Law Claim
If you believe your car is a lemon, contact our offices today for a consultation. We’re dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers throughout Virginia, and serve the entire state from our headquarters in Richmond. Call 804-282-7900 to get started.
If I have a lemon, what remedy am I entitled to?
In return for the vehicle, you are entitled to a refund of ALL money you have paid towards the vehicle, such as any down payment, trade-in value, monthly loan payments, plus payoff of any balance on your loan, plus attorney fees, expert witness fees, and court filing fees, LESS mileage on the vehicle up to the first repair attempt for the problem you are complaining of (calculated at 1/2 the IRS business deduction mileage rate). Or, another way of calculating your refund (which GM uses) is that in return for the vehicle, you receive the cash purchase price, plus all collateral charges such as taxes, title and tags, plus any interest you have paid on the loan, plus attorney fees, expert fees, and court costs, less the mileage deduction as described above.
Do I have to pay any attorney fees?
We will provide an initial preliminary review to determine if your vehicle may qualify as a lemon and that it is a case we think we can help you with. This review usually takes place either over the phone or via email, after we have reviewed the information you have sent. During this review, we will further discuss our fees and costs, and any consultation fee if you choose to go forward. Under Virginia's Lemon Law, all reasonable attorney fees, expert witness fees, and court costs have to be paid by the manufacturer.
What are some Lemon Law tips?
1. KEEP A COPY of all paperwork you have regarding your vehicle and its history. This includes all repair orders, purchase contracts, loan contracts, warranty book and owners manual that came with your car.
2. AFTER A REPAIR IS COMPLETED AND YOU PICK UP YOUR CAR, do not leave without a repair order with accurate information.
a) Make sure ALL the problems you complained of are on the repair order. This is your proof that you told them about it. Do not let the service person say something like, "Well, we did not find anything wrong so we did not put it down." Make them write the complaint on the repair order then, if they want, they can write "NPF" - No Problem Found. But you need proof that you complained about it because this will count as a repair attempt if it's on the repair order - even if there is NPF.
b) Make sure the dates out of service are accurate. One dealer trick is to show fewer days than the dealer actually had the car so it's harder for you to reach the magic number of 30 days. (See Lemon Law FAQ, "How many times do I have to give the dealer a chance to fix my vehicle?")
3. TAKE WRITTEN NOTES of all conversations you have with your dealership and repair technicians concerning your vehicle and its “lemon” potential. Include the date, time and what specifically was discussed. This includes phone calls and in-person contacts. Note the days the vehicle was out of service.
4. ASK ABOUT TSB’s, or Technical Service Bulletins, which are instructions from the manufacturer that alert dealerships of specific defects or necessary repairs in certain models. If you don’t ask, your dealer might not present you with this information, so speak up and ask your technician to write your request on the repair order.
5. PREPARE A TIMELINE if you have several repair orders in your possession, organize each repair attempt by date, the number of times the vehicle has been in the shop, and how many days total your vehicle has been out of service.
6. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED by your dealer, repair technicians, or others who might tell you the problems you are experiencing with your vehicle are minor and that you do not qualify under the lemon law for any sort of relief. ONLY AN ATTORNEY who is licensed to practice law in the state where you purchased your vehicle and has some familiarity with the lemon law, can make that determination!
How do I notify the Manufacturer of any problems?
The address of the manufacturer can be found in your Warranty Booklet, which is provided by the manufacturer at the time of sale. You can find "Instructions on How to Give Notice to the Manufacturer,"as well as a "Sample Letter to Put the Manufacturer on Notice," in our Library or Resources section.
Does the consumer have 3 days to change his mind and return a car to the dealership?
No. There is a very common misconception that a consumer can change his mind within a three-day period, and return a vehicle. In the absence of fraud, the sale of a vehicle in Virginia is a done deal upon signing the contract, and the vehicle cannot be returned within three days because the consumer has changed his/her mind. The sale is final in the absence of fraud or duress.
What can the consumer do if the vehicle appears to be a lemon, and the vehicle is older than 18 months?
The Virginia Lemon Law applies to new or used vehicles that are still within the first 18 months of original factory warranty. When the vehicle is purchased for the first time, the 18-month period begins to run, and a second buyer is only protected within the period that started when the first buyer purchased the vehicle. If a vehicle is over 18 months old, and is significantly defective, a consumer may be able to file for relief under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which has a four-year statute of limitations period starting at the original purchase date. In successful breach of warranty claims, the consumer must first prove, with an expert report and testimony, that the vehicle has factory defects and the significant problem(s) existed when the vehicle was new, and the consumer has to revoke his acceptance of the vehicle, which requires that the vehicle is parked and no longer driven during litigation. If successful, the consumer can be refunded for the vehicle.
What can I do if the dealership says my loan was denied and wants me to sign new paperwork?
This type of sale is one of many examples where dealers use unfair tactics, creating what we call a "yo-yo sale." This is where the dealer tells you your loan was approved, but later calls and says that the loan was not approved and demands the car back unless you pay more money. Often the dealer knows the loan contract that it signs with you (called the Retail Installment Sales Contract) will not be approved, but acts as if it's a done deal so that you become emotionally committed to the car. When the dealership calls you to sign a more expensive contract or lose the car, you agree to do so to avoid the embarrassment with friends and losing the car you now love.
Virginia Law Offers Consumers Protections From This Tactic
Unfortunately, in Virginia, this can be legally done, but only under certain circumstances. Your Buyer's Order is supposed to have a paragraph that is required by VA statute that permits the dealer to cancel the sale if it is unable to assign the loan (that is to get a third party lender) to purchase this loan contract on the same terms you agreed to. Even if you were told "the loan was approved," if the dealer later on calls and says the loan did not go through, under the law, you have 24 hours to return the vehicle, at which time the dealer is required to refund ALL your down payment and return any trade-in. Once that is done, the deal is over and you should move to finding another car somewhere else. The dealer will likely try to get you to pay a larger down payment or offer a new loan contract that costs you more since it knows you are now emotionally committed to the car. But you are NOT required to agree to any new deal. My advice is to demand ALL your down payment and trade-in (which they are required to give to you) and go somewhere else that does not mislead you about what it's really going on.
If a Dealer Refuses to Return Your Down Payment or Trade, Contact Our Consumer Protection Attorneys
Legally, these cases are not worth fighting unless the dealer refuses to return a down payment or a trade-in once they decide to renege on the deal. Unless you have some loss of a down payment or trade-in, the court usually says "No harm, no foul." However, if you’ve tried to get your down payment and/or trade-in back from a dealer and they’ve refused, you may be entitled to legal recourse. Call The Consumer Law Group today at 804-282-7900 to learn more.
How can a consumer determine if his vehicle was wrecked prior to being sold to him?
There are several ways to determine if a vehicle has a salvage history or has been wrecked prior to being sold to a consumer. The consumer can obtain a Carfax report, a DMV title history, or contact his insurance provider to locate salvage or wreck history, but the best way for a consumer to know for sure, and to have the requisite expert that will be required in a court of law, is for the consumer to have the vehicle inspected by a licensed body shop expert.
What can a consumer do if she pays a mechanic to fix her car, and they replace the wrong part, while charging her for a different part?
Some mechanic shops charge a consumer to replace a part in their vehicle, while just repairing the part, or not even touching that part, and attempting to repair a problem through other means, without disclosing this to the consumer. It is fraudulent to charge for a part that is not replaced. The consumer should first ask for a written estimate that describes what you have asked the mechanic to repair. The estimate should include a price for parts and labor. Ideally, it will list the parts to be replaced. Then the consumer should be in the habit of asking the mechanic to give him back the old parts before paying for the repair, and taking back the vehicle. Also, if the consumer states that he/she is going to want the old parts back after work is performed before authorizing the work, it may prevent this fraud from occurring. In the event that a repair is conducted, and the mechanic cannot produce the old part(s), and then an expert mechanic acknowledges the fraud, the consumer should contact The Consumer Law Group at 804-282-7900 immediately.
What can a consumer do if a mechanic is negligent in repairing the vehicle, and this negligence leads to a future problem or an accident?
In the event that the consumer has reason to suspect that a repair facility performed a repair negligently, and has thus caused further damage to the vehicle as a consequence, the consumer has the burden of proof and must obtain a expert mechanic to inspect the vehicle and testify that the previous mechanic was negligent, and specifically, that their negligence was the exact cause of the current problem(s), or that their negligence created a condition that was the direct cause of an accident.
What should a consumer do when a warranty company rejects honoring the warranty because they claim the consumer did not maintain the vehicle, or that the consumer abused the vehicle?
When the warranty company rejects a claim based on the consumer’s improper maintenance, or because the consumer abused the vehicle, the consumer has the burden of proof to show that the vehicle’s problem is a result of a factory defect as opposed to the consumer's lack of maintenance. This will require the consumer to hire an expert mechanic to conduct an inspection of the vehicle, prepare a report, and be willing to testify if he/she discovers that the vehicle is defective, and that the consumer is not the cause of the vehicle’s mechanical problems.
What should a consumer do once he knows that the vehicle was wrecked prior to being sold to him?
Upon discovery that the vehicle has been wrecked prior to ownership, the consumer needs to have the vehicle inspected by an expert body shop and have a report completed, and then contact The Consumer Law Group at 804-282-7900 so the remaining investigation can be conducted and the case can be evaluated.
Your Credit Report: What should you know?
In today's rocky economy, having good credit standing is vital for the typical consumer. Few of us go through life without needing to borrow money from a bank or finance center. Whether you are approved for the loan and at what interest rate depends largely on your credit history. At The Consumer Law Group, we understand the importance of maintaining good credit. In the interest of promoting consumer fairness and awareness, we have provided the following summary of rights and protections you are afforded when it comes to your credit. If you've ever applied for a charge account, a personal loan, insurance, or a job, someone is probably keeping a file on you. This file might contain information on how you pay your bills or whether you've been sued, arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. The companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies, or CRAs. The most common type of Consumer Reporting Agency is the credit bureau. The information sold by Consumer Reporting Agencies to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a consumer report. This generally contains information about where you work and live and about your bill-paying habits. In 1970, Congress created a law that gives consumers specific rights in dealing with Consumer Reporting Agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects you by requiring that Consumer Reporting Agencies furnish correct and complete information to businesses for use in evaluating your application for credit, insurance, or a job.
Was I denied credit because of a bad credit report?
If you applied for and were denied credit, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires creditors to tell you the specific reasons for your denial. For example, the creditor must tell you whether the denial was because you have no credit file with a Consumer Reporting Agency or because the Consumer Reporting Agency says you have delinquent obligations. This law also requires creditors to consider, upon request, additional information you might supply about your credit history.
How do I locate the Consumer Reporting Agency that has my file?
If your application was denied because of information supplied by a Consumer Reporting Agency, that agency's name and address must be supplied to you by the company you applied to. Otherwise, you can find the Consumer Reporting Agency that has your file by calling those listed in the Yellow Pages under credit or credit rating and reporting. If it was Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax, use the information below or on our home page.
Do I have the right to know what the credit report says?
Yes, if you request it. The Consumer Reporting Agency is required to tell you about every piece of information in the report and, in most cases, the sources of that information. Medical information is exempt from this rule, but you can have your physician try to obtain it for you. The Consumer Reporting Agency is not required to give you a copy of the report, although more and more are doing so. You also have the right to be told the name of anyone who received a report on you in the past six months. (If your inquiry concerns a job application, you can get the names of those who received a report during the past two years.)
Is this information free?
Yes, in certain circumstances. If your application was denied because of information furnished by the Consumer Reporting Agency, and if you request a copy of your report within 60 days of receiving the denial notice, you are entitled to the information without charge. You are also entitled to one free credit report once in any 12-month period, if you certify in writing that you: - Are unemployed and intend to apply for a job in the next 60 days; - Are receiving public welfare assistance; or - Believe that your report is wrong due to fraud. If you don't meet one of these requirements, the Consumer Reporting Agency may charge a reasonable fee, usually about $9.00. There is a central site that allows you to request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Please visit annualcreditreport for more information. (See our link to this site in our RESOURCES section.)