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What Are My Options If The Manufacturer Does Not Replace The Vehicle Or Offer A Refund?

If the manufacturer will not refund your money or replace the vehicle, you have several options. You may seek mediation, arbitration, or file suite in court.

This allows both parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution with the help of a facilitator. Mediation is voluntary, requiring both parties` consent. Consumer Affairs offers a face­to­face mediation program for Lemon Law disputes; you may also apply for mediation through your local consumer group.

This is an inexpensive and informal way to resolve your complaint. In arbitration, the consumer and the manufacturer present evidence about the condition of the vehicle to an impartial person or persons. There are two types of arbitration: state­run and manufacturer­sponsored.

1. State­run Arbitration: The state­run Lemon Law Arbitration Program hears only Lemon Law cases. To qualify for state­certified arbitration, your vehicle must meet the criteria outlined in this pamphlet. The purpose of the arbitration hearing is to determine whether or not your vehicle qualifies for refund or replacement under the Lemon Law. State­run arbitration is all or nothing. If the arbitrator determines that your vehicle meets the Lemon Law standards, you will be awarded a full refund (less the use allowance and the amount of any previous settlement from the manufacturer) or replacement. If the arbitrator decides that your vehicle is not a lemon, there will be no award, although you may have rights to different remedies under other laws. The arbitrator cannot order the manufacturer to make a partial refund, attempt additional repairs, or extend the terms of the express warranty.

Consumer Affairs must receive your request for arbitration within 18 months of the date your vehicle was delivered to you to require the manufacturer`s participation. The request must be made on an official application. You can request state­certified arbitration even if you have already used the manufacturer`s own arbitration program. Contact Consumer Affairs for an application, or visit our web site.

A neutral arbitrator will hear both sides of the case and will generally issue a formal decision within 45 days of acceptance of a request for arbitration. Within 21 days of the decision, manufacturers must either issue the award or file an appeal. Late payment of awards or frivolous appeals can result in a judge awarding double damages to the consumer.

2. Manufacturer­sponsored Arbitration: You may request manufacturer­sponsored arbitration for Lemon Law defects, as well as other less serious problems. A manufacturer cannot require you to use its arbitration program, but if you choose to use it, the arbitrator or panel does not have to apply the Lemon Law standards. The arbitrator can order partial refunds as well as full ones. Most manufacturers are bound by the decisions of their arbitration programs. For specific information on your manufacturer`s arbitration program, contact its zone or regional office.

You have the right to proceed to court if you have met the Lemon Law`s requirements and the manufacturer refuses to refund your money or replace your vehicle with one that is acceptable to you, or if you are not satisfied with your arbitration decision.

Failure to comply with the Lemon Law is an unfair and deceptive act under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, c. 93A, which may entitle you to double or treble damages, plus court costs and reasonable attorney`s fees. If you are considering court action, you should consult an attorney. You or your attorney must begin by sending the manufacturer a 30­Day Demand Letter.

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