How Does Arbitration Work?
Automobile manufacturers doing business in Minnesota must offer consumers an arbitration program which considers consumers` warranty related disputes.
A manufacturer`s arbitration program provides consumers a fast and simple way to resolve disputes. Arbitrators can consider arguments based on the lemon law. But, an arbitrator is not a judge and is not required to apply the law the way a court would.
If the manufacturer requires it, consumers must first go through the manufacturer`s arbitration program before filing a lawsuit under the lemon law. You may not have to wait until all the lemon law criteria are met before going through arbitration, but you might have a stronger case if all the criteria are met.
In fact, you may not even want to discuss the lemon law in arbitration if your car does not meet the lemon law criteria.
The consumer has certain rights during the arbitration process:
- Lemon law information. You and the arbitrator(s) must receive a copy of the Lemon Law Brochure from the manufacturer`s arbitration program.
- Lemon law arguments. You may make any arguments to the arbitrator(s) you think necessary to support your complaint, including those based on the lemon law. The arbitrator(s) cannot be discouraged or prohibited from considering your arguments.
- Documents. You are entitled to copies of all documents.
- Oral presentation. You must be given reasonable written notice of the arbitration and an opportunity to make an oral presentation to the arbitrator(s), unless you agree to a telephone conference or to submit the case on the basis of documents alone. If the case is based on documents alone, the manufacturer or dealer representative cannot participate in discussion or resolution of the dispute. You may get better results if you make a personal oral presentation to the arbitrator(s).
- Independent appraisal. You must be given an adequate opportunity to get an independent appraisal, at your own cost, of any manufacturer claim that your vehicle does not have a problem or that your vehicle is operating within normal specifications.
- Repair attempts. You must be given a chance to inform the arbitrator(s) about the results of any recent repair attempts by the manufacturer.
- Service bulletins. You must be provided with, at reasonable cost, any technical service bulletin which the manufacturer knows directly applies to the specific mechanical problem being disputed.
- Attorney. You have the right to be represented by an attorney in the arbitration process. However, most arbitration participants appear before the arbitrator(s) without an attorney. Attorney`s fees for representation in arbitration are not recoverable under the lemon law.
- Arbitration decision. You are not bound by the decision of the arbitrator(s), unless you agree to be bound. In the past, manufacturers have agreed to be bound by the arbitration decision. If you are unhappy with an arbitration decision, you may wish to consult an attorney if you wish to file a lawsuit under the lemon law. The arbitration decision is admissible as nonbinding evidence in any subsequent legal action. If you wish to file an appeal of the arbitrator`s ruling in court, you must file in court within 30 days of the decision.
- Refund amount. If the arbitrator(s) decides you should receive a refund or replacement vehicle under the terms of the lemon law, then you are entitled to the same refunds and reimbursements you would have received had you won in court.
- Bad faith appeal. If a court determines that you or the manufacturer acted in bad faith when you appealed an arbitration decision, the party that wins in court may be entitled to receive three times the actual damages, plus attorney`s fees and court costs.