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Warranties protect California consumers

Californians might be aware that as buyers they have certain protections under the law. For example, they may have heard of California's "lemon law" that covers the purchase of a motor vehicle. Other kinds of purchases in California are also subject to consumer protections such as warranty laws.

"Lemon law" provisions

People who buy or lease a new vehicle in California have legal recourse if the vehicle turns out to be a lemon. The written warranty that accompanies the car has specific terms covering repairs and replacement, and the state has set limits on how much trouble the buyer is expected to put up with.

When there is a persistent problem with the vehicle, the buyer may have to bring the car in repeatedly for repairs and parts replacements. Even if the dealer doesn't charge for these services, additional costs can mount up: towing bills and rental car fees, for example, not to mention the buyer's time and inconvenience.

California's law goes beyond the warranty's promises, as it states that after a reasonable number of attempts to repair the car, the manufacturer must either replace the car or refund the purchase price. An authorized dealer who sold the car may act as the manufacturer's representative.

Not only must the manufacturer pay back the purchase price or replace the car, it must also reimburse the buyer for sales taxes and official fees like a license and registration. The buyer should keep track of other costs incurred because of buying or leasing the car, because these also have to be repaid. These reimbursable costs might include finance charges and interest on a car loan, along with those additional costs associated with the repair issue.

Other warranties

California's lemon law is just one of many provisions in state and federal law aimed at protecting consumers from unfair dealings and shoddy products. A warranty amounts to a promise from a seller and the manufacturer that a product will do what it is supposed to do. The warranty allows the buyer to get a replacement, repair or refund for a faulty product.

Federal law passed in 1975 covers warranties on almost every product sold in the United States. Written warranties are not required, but if there is a written warranty it must be provided for customers to read before purchasing the product.

The form and content of the warranty are controlled by the law. The warranty has to be in plain, understandable language and must include the name and address of the company providing the warranty. A warranty must specify what is covered, for how long, and what it promises, be it repair, replacement or refund.

It can get technical

Although a warranty is supposed to be easily understood by consumers, warranties can get complicated fast. For example, the meaning of "lifetime" in a so-called "lifetime warranty" can mean a variety of things: the length of time while a product is on the market, or the time while an original purchaser owns it, for example.

California consumers may need help interpreting and enforcing a warranty if they believe a product has not lived up to its seller's and manufacturer's promises. Besides the specific language of a written warranty, an implied warranty or an oral warranty may apply. Enlisting the help of an experienced attorney is a wise move when a consumer must confront a manufacturer or seller and hold it to its word. Some attorneys specialize in this area of law and can be valuable allies in protecting consumers' interests.

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The Law Offices of Michael S. Humphries
1400 Ocean Ave
Seal Beach, CA 90740

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