Philadelphia Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Blog

Avoid buying a hurricane-damaged car

Cars damaged by hurricanes are possibly being sold to car buyers in Pennsylvania. State lemon laws protect consumers from manufacturing defects by requiring manufacturers to buy back cars after a certain number of repairs have been attempted. Consumers should take steps to check for hurricane damage before they purchase a vehicle since lemon law requirements only apply to new vehicles.

A study published by CarFax shows that there are nearly 500,000 vehicles on the roads that have been damaged by hurricanes. The highest number of vehicles with flood damage has been reported in New York. Miami comes in second, and Philadelphia comes in third.

Why would a dealer want to sell you a damaged vehicle?

With how many drivers are on the roads these days, car dealerships continue to give millions of people vehicles to join the other motorists. However, not all of these transactions will include a properly functioning vehicle. Thankfully, there are more people aware of the possibility of a faulty vehicle these days.

While some dealerships sell a defective car by complete accident, some trick or give customers these problematic vehicles on purpose. Many customers question why they would do such a thing when the customer could file a lawsuit against the dealership and put them at both legal and financial risk. It is imperative to be aware of these motivations before you head into the dealership to pick up your vehicle.

How warranty laws protect consumers

The Magnuson-Moss Act and the Federal Trade Commission provide protections to those buying products in Pennsylvania and other states. For example, a copy of the warranty must be made available to buyers prior to making a purchase. It must be written in a manner that is clear and easy to read. Furthermore, the party that is offering the warranty must disclose whether it is a full warranty or if it is limited in any way.

If a seller or other party grants a warranty, it must be able to abide by its terms. Offering a warranty that cannot be fulfilled is a violation of the law. The same is true for warranty terms that are misleading or deceptive to consumers. An implied warranty cannot be disclaimed or modified if there is a written warranty available. However, it may be possible for the party offering protection to limit the implied warranty for the duration of the written warranty.

About lemon vehicles

Every year, thousands of defective motor vehicles in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States are bought back by manufacturers because of repair issues. Despite popular belief, the titles of these vehicles are not marked to indicate that they are lemons. The manufacturers will resell the same vehicles, even if they have not been repaired. These vehicles could then be back on the roads and back in need of repair.

There are lemon laws in every state in the country, and they establish minimum standards for having vehicles repaired under warranty. For vehicles with defects that cannot be repaired after multiple attempts or within a certain time period, the manufacturer is required to buy the vehicle back or give the consumer a non-defective vehicle in its place.

When is a car defect typically found?

With how critical purchasing a car is in the lives of so many people, it can be understandably frustrating to find out that it is a lemon months after purchasing it. Pennsylvania’s lemon law only covers problems that occur within the first 12 months or 12,000 miles of owning the vehicle, so by the time someone finds a major problem with the car, it may already be too late.

There are many instances where you or someone else could find car damage after the sale. Some of these actions are common within the first year, while others may come slightly later. It may be worthwhile to test some of these actions out soon after the purchase to see if you have any deficiencies as soon as you can.

Lemon laws and auto fraud can combine in some cases

When people in Philadelphia buy a car, they could face a range of consumer protection pitfalls. While some defective cars that continue to fail repeatedly despite being sold under warranty are classified as lemons, in other cases, the transaction becomes a matter of auto fraud above and beyond the sale of a car with mechanical defects.

One California case currently being pursued highlights the ways in which lemon law issues can come together with auto fraud. The lemon law protects car buyers who purchase a defective or unsafe vehicle from a dealership. In this case, a woman bought a car from a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles dealership with a warranty that provided a rental car during repairs. As the woman drove with her young child to a weekend away from home, the brakes on her car failed. As she was far away from home in a sparsely populated area, she had her car towed to the nearest FCA dealership.

FTC's lemon law gets an update

The Federal Trade Commission established its Used Car Rule in 1985. It places certain requirements on used car dealers operating in Pennsylvania and the rest of the U.S. Dealers are required to put a Buyers Guide on all of the vehicles they offer for sale. The Buyers Guide includes warranty information and other details that customers can use to make buying decisions. Following a solicitation of public comments, the FTC has amended the Used Car Rule to include new required disclosures.

The Buyers Guide now must include a statement telling customers where they can check for open recalls and where they can get a vehicle history report. Catalytic converters and airbags have been included to the list of possible major vehicle defects that must be included in the Buyers Guide.

Takata air bag cases added to multidistrict suit

People in Pennsylvania may be aware of lawsuits, injuries and deaths involving defective Takata air bags. There are a number of product liability lawsuits involving the bags pending in the Southern District of Florida.

There were also four cases in the Central District of California. The four people who brought the cases had hoped they would be tried individually, but a panel found that they were similar enough to be transferred to Florida. The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has a rule that allows cases to be transferred if they are similar to other nationwide cases. It is usually an effort to move these cases more quickly through the court system and is often used in cases of air disaster or product liability. The cases were filed against Toyota, but the transfer essentially removes Toyota from the settlement and places the focus on Takata.

CarFax reports may not have correct information

Car buyers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country may rely on CarFax vehicle history reports when purchasing a used car. However, the information on a given report may not always be accurate. In some cases, the reports may neglect to make note of serious accidents or significant repairs made to a vehicle. In others, a report overstates the damage caused in an accident, which can reduce a car's value.

One man was offered $14,000 to trade in his Audi by a dealership after a CarFax report determined that the vehicle had been in an accident. However, the vehicle had only a small ding on the bumper, and the man had hoped that he would receive $17,000 for his trade. In another incident, a man sued CarFax after buying a 2000 Ford Mustang that had a clean history report. In reality, the car had been in a major accident resulting in structural damage.

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