Lemon laws protect consumers from sour cars


    By John Preston Wudel

    Lemons are more than just sour, yellow fruit; they are also new cars with significant, irreparable defects.

    Under the Utah New Motor Vehicle Warranties Act, Utah consumers are protected from buying or leasing a lemon.

    For a vehicle to be classified as a lemon, it must meet the criteria established by the warranties act.

    Even if a vehicle meets the criteria, consumers must first try to settle the dispute with the dealer. If consumers are still unsuccessful in being properly compensated, they can file a report with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.

    “I don”t view it as hoops to jump through for consumers,” said Francine Giani, director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection. She said the steps are necessary to ensure a fair situation for both the business and the consumer.

    Giani said the biggest problem is that people do not try to resolve the situation with the dealer first. She said consumer protection cannot help until the consumer has gone through the complete process.

    The lemon law does not just protect consumers, but it also protects dealers and manufacturers.

    Approximately 10 to 12 lemon cases are brought to consumer protection a year, but of those, only one or two turn out to be actual lemons, Giani said. She said the majority of the cases are settled with the dealer.

    “Most businesses want to satisfy the consumer,” she said. “Usually dealers step up to the plate and make it right for the consumer.”

    Paul Kilbury, manager at Chatwin Motors in Provo, said dealers and manufactures work with the consumer to rectify the situation.

    “We work with you to make it a win-win for everyone,” he said.

    Kilbury said lemons are very uncommon, but they can happen. “It”s like pancakes,” he said. “You may make the best pancakes in town, but you could still make bad batter once.”

    Giani said lemon laws do not apply to used cars, so consumers have to take extra caution when buying a used vehicle.

    Giani”s advice is to do research about the car by asking friends or looking in Consumer Report. She also said to have a mechanic check the car and make sure the car comes with a warranty that offers wide coverage.

    “A lot of people don”t do their homework, and a vehicle is a fairly significant purchase,” Giani said.

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