Yes, California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, also referred to as the lemon law in the context of motor vehicles, outlines consumer protection regulations and the applicable penalties for violating an express or implied car warranty. As added consumer protection, under the lemon law any language waiving the protection afforded by the lemon law is unenforceable and void because it is seen as contrary to public policy provisions. But, while most consumers are educated on the consumer protection offered by express warranties, many are unaware that they are also safeguarded by an implied car warranty as well.
California law provides consumers with two applicable implied warranties, the implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness, which accompany the consumer’s vehicle purchase regardless of whether there is an express car warranty. The consumer’s implied car warranty that pertains to merchantability is implied with vehicle sales and guarantees that the vehicle is fit for its ordinary purpose, while the implied car warranty for fitness is directed toward vehicle sales where the seller knows or has reason to know that the vehicle is required for a particular purpose and that the buyer is relying on the seller’s judgment to select the vehicle.
While the lemon law does provide that manufacturers are able to disclaim an implied car warranty with clear and prominent writing, should the manufacturer deliver an express car warranty at the time the consumer purchases or leases the vehicle, the implied warranty cannot be limited, modified or disclaimed in any way. To ensure consumer protection, and to make sure consumers are aware of any disclaimer, the lemon law requires that, prior to vehicle sales, the consumer be provided with a clear writing informing the consumer that the vehicle is being sold “as is”, that they buyer is accepting all risk as to the quality and performance of the vehicle and, should a problem or defect arise following the sale, the consumer is responsible for any and all fees and costs associated with servicing or repairing the vehicle.
Another important item for consumers to note is the length of time their implied car warranty applies. Where an express written warranty usually specifies an applicable time period, because an implied warranty is not provided to a consumer in writing, many may not know how long they are afforded its consumer protection. To make this area of consumer protection law more complex, the lemon law provides that the duration of an implied warranty differs depending on whether the consumer purchased a new or used vehicle. Both the implied warranty of merchantability and the implied warranty of fitness apply for the same length of time as any applicable express warranty regardless of whether the vehicle is new or used. But, for implied warranties for new cars, if no express warranty is provided or if it fails to specify an applicable time period, then the implied warranty is effective for one year. For implied warranties for used cars, if no express warranty is provided or if it fails to specify a time period, the implied warranty is effective for only three months.
Because of the many consumer protection provisions outlined under the lemon law, it is important to consult with and hire a skilled and experienced attorney who can accurately deliver advice and guidance. Making an educated and thoughtful decision for legal representation can make a difference in the outcome of any consumer’s lawsuit.