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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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.)
What can I do if the information on my credit report is inaccurate or incomplete?
Notify the Consumer Reporting Agency. Be as specific as possible. They are required to reinvestigate the items in question. You should also contact directly the creditor or other person who gave the incorrect information to make sure their records are in order. If the new investigation reveals an error, a corrected version should be sent, on your request, to anyone who received your report in the past six months. (Job applicants can have corrected reports sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years.) If you dispute the accuracy of the information in your file and the Consumer Reporting Agency deletes it, the agency cannot put the disputed information back into your file without notifying you in writing. If you contact a consumer reporting agency to dispute the accuracy or completeness of information in your file, the reporting agency may forward your dispute to the creditor or other person who furnished the information to the agency. But you also should still contact that source of information directly. Many creditors have a special address for this purpose, and have a duty to avoid reporting inaccurate information. Also, if you tell anyone that you dispute the accuracy of information, then that person must note that the information is disputed whenever it is provided to a consumer reporting agency.
If these inaccuracies do not get removed, contact us. We will discuss with you (at no charge) exactly what you need to do as well as give you an idea if you have a possible legal case under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) against the credit reporting agencies (CRA) or the furnisher of the inaccurate information to the CRA. Under the FCRA you are entitled to any damages you have suffered, emotional distress, statutory and punitive damages for willful violations of the law, and legal fees.
What can I do if the Consumer Reporting Agency won't modify the credit report?
The new investigation may not resolve your dispute with the Consumer Reporting Agency. If this happens, have the Consumer Reporting Agency include your version of the disputed information in your file and in future reports. You may submit a written statement of any length to be included in your file, although if the Consumer Reporting Agency assists in writing a clear summary of the dispute, the statement may be limited to 100 words. At your request, the Consumer Reporting Agency will also show your version or a summary of your version to anyone who recently received a copy of the old report. There is no charge for this service if it's requested within 30 days after you receive notice of your application denial. After that, there may be a reasonable charge.
How long can Consumer Reporting Agencies report unfavorable information on my credit report?
Generally, seven years. Adverse information cannot be reported after that, with certain exceptions:
- Bankruptcy information can be reported for ten years
- Information reported because of an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000.00 has no time limit
- Information reported because of an application for more than $150,000.00 worth of credit or life insurance has no time limit
- Information concerning a lawsuit or judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.
If you believe that inaccurate or incomplete credit information is being used against you, you have rights. Learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting Act and how we can help you here.
What if I think a Consumer Reporting Agency has violated my rights under the law?
You may wish to seek the advice of an attorney. In some cases, but not always, a Consumer Reporting Agency which has violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act must pay your attorney's fees. Although the Federal Trade Commission cannot act as your lawyer in private disputes, information about your experiences and concerns is vital to the enforcement of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Please send questions or complaints to the FTC, Washington, D.C. 20580.
How do I order a copy of my credit report?
To order copies of your credit reports, write to each of the following Consumer Reporting Agencies:
Post Office Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
TRANS UNION CORPORATION
Post Office Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
EQUIFAX CREDIT INFORMATION SERVICES
Post Office Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Does Virginia's Lemon Law cover used vehicles?
Yes, but only in certain cases. As long as the vehicle was covered by the original manufacturer's warranty when you got it, and the period of 18 months from the date that the original manufacturer's warranty first went into effect with the ORIGINAL OWNER has not expired. NOTE, if this 18-month period is about to expire, you HAVE to contact us immediately!! If the 18-month period expires and no lawsuit has been filed or arbitration has not been filed, then your rights under Virginia's lemon law have expired. If your vehicle is within 4 years of the date of purchase, it is covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act and we may be able to get some relief for you.
What is a "lemon" vehicle?
It's a vehicle that has a problem or problems that "significantly impairs the use, value or safety of the vehicle" to you and which the dealer has not fixed within a reasonable number of chances, and the manufacturer has been notified about these problems IN WRITING. (Not e-mail, fax or by phone, and preferably by certified mail). 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.
Are business vehicles covered by Virginia's Lemon Law?
Not if a "significant" percentage of the use of the vehicle is for business. If you have deducted a "signifianct" percentage of the use of the vehicle for business on your personal tax return, then Virginia's Lemon Law probably will not cover it. However, if the business usage is less than 50%, and this amount or less is what is on your tax return, then the vehicle probably will be covered.
Is there a time deadline to file a Lemon Law claim?
Yes. A Virginia Lemon Law lawsuit must be filed within 18 months of the warranty first going into effect with the first owner of the vehicle. However, if you have filed for arbitration prior to this 18-month period expiring, then your deadline to file suit is extended by 12 months from the date of any decision by the arbitrator.
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.