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The Massachusetts Lemon Laws provide legal relief to consumers who are sold a new, used, or leased vehicle that has a significant defect to its safety or use. Under these laws, car dealerships are required to place a bright yellow Lemon Law sticker on each car for sale, informing consumers of their rights.

Earlier in 2014, surveyors from the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) and local consumer divisions visited 71 car dealerships in 23 communities across Massachusetts and examined over 1,900 new and used cars for sale. Overall, 57.8 percent of the 1,921 cars surveyed had Lemon Law stickers showing on the car’s window. Unfortunately, 16 dealerships showed zero percent compliance.

OCABR sent a letter to each dealership letting them know of their compliance rate and where to find information on their responsibilities when selling to the public. Undersecretary Barbara Anthony, Lemon Law Coordinator Lisa Weber, and OCABR staff met with several dealers and industry representatives to discuss the survey findings and ways to better educate dealership staff in order to improve disclosure. Though many of the dealerships that attended the meeting had high compliance rates, several came because they were interested in learning more about the Lemon Laws and their obligations to consumers.

In November 2014, OCABR surveyors returned to the dealerships with zero percent compliance to see whether the cars for sale had the bright yellow Lemon Law sticker. Most of the dealerships improved dramatically; five had 100 percent compliance and only two dealerships showed less than 50 percent compliance. Overall, 82 percent of the 352 cars checked had the required Lemon Law sticker.

While many dealership compliance improved dramatically in 2014, dealerships must do a better job of notifying consumers about their Lemon Law rights by placing these stickers on the cars they sell. The Lemon Law sticker requirement is a critical protection that provides consumers with important information about their rights when a recently purchased car turns out to be defective.

The Office coordinates the Lemon Law Arbitration program, which provides consumers with a means by which to have their situation resolved by a neutral arbitrator at no cost to the consumer. These arbitrations can help when dealerships do not honor the Lemon Law and refund the consumer for defective cars.

The Office has developed an online Lemon Law tool to help consumers determine if they qualify for the Lemon Law arbitration program. The tool poses a number of questions intended to help a consumer determine if their vehicle’s mileage, cost, and condition make it eligible for a potential repair, replacement, or refund from the seller. Consumers who have called in to the OCABR hotline have noted its helpfulness; by using the tool, they are able to ask more specific questions with a shorter call time.

It is important that consumers get savvy about large purchases by doing research beforehand to gauge quality and relative cost. Should you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of owning a lemon, knowing your consumer rights will make a big difference in the relief potentially available to you. Information about the new, used, and leased car Lemon Laws, along with other helpful links and documents, are available on the OCABR website here.

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