While many people think the Lemon Law Arbitration Program is a consumer protection program, my position requires me to respond to questions posed by manufacturers, dealers, and leasing companies too. In one recent case, I received a frantic phone call from a dealer who sold a used car. A consumer told the dealer she was planning to file a Lemon Law case. In 35 years of owning the dealership and selling used cars, he prided himself on always being able to resolve consumer complaints directly. He was concerned about his reputation in the community should someone find out, but more importantly, he expressed disappointment that he was not able to help this consumer. I explained a bit to him about the Used Car Lemon Law, including the consumer’s choice between two remedies should she win – full refund of the purchase price or a comparable replacement vehicle.
I also discussed the mediation process with him. I explained the difference between mediation and arbitration, and noted that not all disputes are appropriate for mediation, and that mediation is voluntary (unlike arbitration). I heard back from him a few weeks later indicating that the consumer agreed to mediation. I later heard from the consumer who indicated that she never wanted to file a Lemon Law claim, but felt stuck. She thanked me for speaking to the dealer and giving him enough information to help the parties find a way to resolve their issues. While the Attorney General’s Office may have accepted her case into the program, she explained that she would not have received what she wanted, which was $500 to cover tow costs and an apology from the dealer, who she had known since she was 10 years old.