Maine Lemon Law

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Maine Lemon Law

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1161. Definitions

As used in this chapter, unless the context indicates otherwise, the following terms have the following meanings. [1983, c. 145 (new).]

  1. Consumer. “Consumer” means the purchaser, other than for purposes of resale, or the lessee, of a motor vehicle, any person to whom the motor vehicle is transferred during the duration of an express warranty applicable to the motor vehicle and any other person entitled by the terms of the warranty to enforce the obligations of the warranty, except that the term “consumer” shall not include any governmental entity, or any business or commercial enterprise which registers 3 or more motor vehicles. [1987, c. 359, § 1 (amd).]
  2. Manufacturer. “Manufacturer” means manufacturer, importer, distributor or anyone who is named as the warrantor on an express written warranty on a motor vehicle. [1983, c. 145 (new).]
  3. Motor vehicle. “Motor vehicle” means any motor driven vehicle, designed for the conveyance of passengers or property on the public highways, which is sold or leased in this State, except that the term “motor vehicle” does not include any commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 8,500 pounds or more. [1987, c. 359, § 2 (amd).]
  4. Reasonable allowance for use. “Reasonable allowance for use” means that amount obtained by multiplying the total purchase price of the vehicle by a fraction having as its denominator 100,000 and having as its numerator the number of miles that the vehicle traveled prior to the manufacturer’s acceptance of its return. [1985, c. 220, § 1 (new).]
  5. State-certified arbitration. “State-certified arbitration” means the informal dispute settlement procedure administered by the Department of the Attorney General which arbitrates consumer complaints dealing with new motor vehicles that may be so defective as to qualify for equitable relief under the Maine lemon laws. [1989, c. 570, §1 (new).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1162. Scope; construction

  1. Consumer rights. Nothing in this chapter in any way limits the rights or remedies which are otherwise available to a consumer under any other law. [1983, c. 145 (new).]
  2. Manufacturers, distributors, agents and dealers. Nothing in this chapter in any way limits the rights or remedies of franchisees under chapter 204 or other applicable law. [1983, c. 145 (new).]
  3. Waivers void. Any agreement entered into by a consumer which waives, limits or disclaims the rights set forth in this chapter shall be void as contrary to public policy. [1985, c. 220, § 2 (new).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1163. Rights and duties

  1. Repair of nonconformities. If a new motor vehicle does not conform to all express warranties, the manufacturer, its agent or authorized dealer shall make those repairs necessary to conform the vehicle to the express warranties if the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent or authorized dealer during the term of the express warranties, within a period of 2 years following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer, or during the first 18,000 miles of operation, whichever is the earlier date. This obligation exists notwithstanding the fact that the repairs are made after the expiration of the appropriate time period.
    1. [1989, c. 570, §2 (rp).]
    2. [1989, c. 570, §2 (rp).]

    [1989, c. 570, §2 (rpr).]

  2. Failure to make effective repair. If the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers are unable to conform the motor vehicle to any applicable express warranty by repairing or correcting any defect or condition, or combination of defects or conditions, which substantially impairs the use, safety or value of the motor vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer shall either replace the motor vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle or accept return of the vehicle from the consumer and make a refund to the consumer and lien holder, if any, as their interests may appear. The consumer may reject any offered replacement and receive instead a refund. The refund shall consist of the following items, less a reasonable allowance for use of the vehicle:
    1. The full purchase price or, if a leased vehicle, the lease payments made to date, including any paid finance charges on the purchased or leased vehicle; [1991, c. 64 (amd).]
    2. All collateral charges, including, but not limited to, sales tax, license and registration fees and similar government charges; and [1985, c. 220, § 3 (new).]
    3. C

    The provisions of this section shall not affect the obligations of a consumer under a loan or sales contract or the secured interest of any secured party. The secured party shall consent to the replacement of the security interest with a corresponding security interest on a replacement motor vehicle which is accepted by the consumer in exchange for the motor vehicle, if the replacement motor vehicle is comparable in value to the original motor vehicle. If, for any reason, the security interest in the new motor vehicle having a defect or condition is not able to be replaced with a corresponding security interest on a new motor vehicle accepted by the consumer, the consumer shall accept a refund. Refunds required under this section shall be made to the consumer and the secured party, if any, as their interests exist at the time the refund is to be made. Similarly, refunds to a lessor and lessee shall be made as their interests exist at the time the refund is to be made. [1991, c. 64 (amd).]

  3. Reasonable number of attempts; presumption. There is a presumption that a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to conform a motor vehicle to the applicable express warranties if:
    1. The same nonconformity has been subject to repair 3 or more times by the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers within the express warranty term, during the period of 2 years following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer or during the first 18,000 miles of operation, whichever is the earlier date, and at least 2 of those times the same agent or dealer attempted the repair but the nonconformity continues to exist; or [1989, c. 570, §3 (rpr).]
      1. [1989, c. 570, §3 (rp).]
    2. The vehicle is out of service by reason of repair by the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealer, of any defect or condition or combination of defects for a cumulative total of 15 or more business days during that warranty term or the appropriate time period, whichever is the earlier date. [1989, c. 570, §3 (rpr).]

    [1989, c. 570, §3 (rpr).]

    3-A. Final opportunity to repair. If the manufacturer or his agents have been unable to make the repairs necessary to conform the vehicle to the express warranties, the consumer shall notify, in writing, the manufacturer or the authorized dealer of his desire for a refund or replacement. For the 7 business days following receipt by the dealer or the manufacturer of this notice, the manufacturer shall have a final opportunity to correct or repair any nonconformities. This final repair effort shall be at a repair facility that is reasonably accessible to the consumer. This repair effort shall not stay the time period within which the manufacturer must provide an arbitration hearing pursuant to section 1165. [1987, c. 359, § 4 (new).]
  4. Time limit; extension. The term of an express warranty, the one-year and 2-year periods following delivery and the 15-day period provided in subsection 3, paragraph B, shall be extended by any period of time during which repair services are not available to the consumer because of a war, invasion, strike or fire, flood or other natural disaster. [1987, c. 395, § 5 (amd).]
  5. Dealer liability. Nothing in this chapter may be construed as imposing any liability on a dealer or creating a cause of action by a consumer against a dealer under this section, except regarding any written express warranties made by the dealer apart from the manufacturer’s own warranties. [1983, c. 145 (new).]
  6. Disclosure of notice requirement. No consumer may be required to notify the manufacturer of a claim under this section, unless the manufacturer has clearly and conspicuously disclosed to the consumer, in the warranty or owner’s manual, that written notification of the nonconformity is required before the consumer may be eligible for a refund or replacement of the vehicle. The manufacturer shall include with the warranty or owner’s manual the name and address to which the consumer shall send the written notification. [1987, c. 395, § 6 (amd).]
    6-A. Notification of dealer. Consumers may also satisfy a manufacturer’s notice requirement by notifying in writing the authorized dealer of a claim under this section. The dealer shall act as the manufacturer’s agent and immediately communicate to the manufacturer the consumer’s claim.

    [1987, c. 359, § 7 (new).]

  7. Disclosure at time of resale. No motor vehicle which is returned to the manufacturer under subsection 2, may be resold without clear and conspicuous written disclosure to any subsequent purchaser, whether that purchaser is a consumer or a dealer, of the following information:
    1. That the motor vehicle was returned to the manufacturer under this chapter; [1985, c. 220, § 3 (new).]
    2. That the motor vehicle did not conform to the manufacturer’s express warranties; and [1985, c. 220, § 3 (new).]
    3. The ways in which the motor vehicle did not conform to the manufacturer’s express warranties. [1985, c. 220, § 3 (new).]

    [1985, c. 220, § 3 (new).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1164. Affirmative defense

It is an affirmative defense to any claim under this chapter that: [1983, c. 145 (new).]

  1. Lack of impairment. An alleged nonconformity does not substantially impair the use, safety or value of the motor vehicle; or [1985, c. 220, § 4 (amd).]
  2. Abuse. A nonconformity is the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications or alterations of a motor vehicle by anyone other than the manufacturer, its agents or authorized dealers since delivery to the consumer. [1983, c. 145 (new).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1165. Informal dispute settlement

If a manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement procedure which complies in all respects with the provisions of 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 703, as from time to time amended, the provisions of section 1163, subsection 2, concerning refunds or replacement shall not apply to any consumer who has not first resorted to that procedure or to state-certified arbitration. This requirement shall be satisfied 40 days after notification to the informal dispute settlement procedure of the dispute or when the procedure’s duties under 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 703.5 (d), are completed, whichever occurs sooner. [1989, c. 570, §4 (amd).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1166. Unfair or deceptive trade practice

A violation of any of the provisions of this chapter shall be considered prima facie evidence of an unfair or deceptive trade practice under Title 5, chapter 10. [1985, c. 220, § 6 (new).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1167. Attorney’s fees

In the case of a consumer’s successful action to enforce any liability under this chapter, a court may award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred in connection with the action. [1985, c. 220, § 7 (new).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1168. New car leases

For the purposes of this chapter only, the following apply to leases of new motor vehicles. [1987, c. 359, § 8 (new).]

  1. Warranties. If express warranties are regularly furnished to purchasers of substantially the same kind of motor vehicles:
    1. Those warranties shall be deemed to apply to the leased motor vehicles; and [1987, c. 359, § 8 (new).]
    2. The consumer lessee shall be deemed to be the first purchaser of the motor vehicle for the purpose of any warranty provisions limiting warranty benefits to the original purchaser. [1987, c. 359, § 8 (new).]

    [1987, c. 359, § 8 (new).]

  2. Lessee’s rights. The lessee of a motor vehicle has the same rights under this chapter against the manufacturer and any person making express warranties that the lessee would have under this chapter if the vehicle had been purchased by the lessee. The manufacturer and any person making express warranties have the same duties and obligations under this chapter with respect to the vehicle that the manufacturer and other person would have under this chapter if the goods had been sold to the lessee. [1987, c. 359, § 8 (new).]

Maine Lemon law 10 § 1169. State motor vehicle dispute arbitration and mediation

  1. Neutral new car arbitration. All manufacturers shall submit to state-certified, new car arbitration if arbitration is requested by the consumer within 2 years from the date of original delivery to the consumer of a new motor vehicle or during the first 18,000 miles of operation, whichever comes first. State-certified arbitration shall be performed by one or more neutral arbitrators selected by the Department of the Attorney General operating in accordance with the rules promulgated pursuant to this chapter. The Attorney General may contract with an independent entity to provide arbitration or the Attorney General’s office may appoint neutral arbitrators. Each party to an arbitration is entitled to one rejection of a proposed arbitrator. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  2. Written findings. Each arbitration shall result in a written finding of whether the motor vehicle in dispute meets the standards set forth by this chapter for vehicles that are required to be replaced or refunded. This finding shall be issued within 45 days of receipt by the Department of the Attorney General of a properly completed written request by a consumer for state-certified arbitration under this section. All findings of fact issuing from a state-certified arbitration shall be taken as admissible evidence of whether the standards set forth in this chapter for vehicles required to be refunded or replaced have been met in any subsequent action brought by either party ensuing from the matter considered in the arbitration. The finding reporting date may be extended by 5 days if the arbitrator seeks an independent evaluation of the motor vehicle. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  3. Administered by Attorney General. The Department of the Attorney General shall promulgate rules governing the proceedings of state-certified arbitration which shall promote fairness and efficiency. These rules shall include, but are not limited to, a requirement of the personal objectivity of each arbitrator in the results of the dispute that that arbitrator will hear, and the protection of the right of each party to present its case and to be in attendance during any presentation made by the other party. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  4. Consumer arbitration relief. If a motor vehicle is found by state-certified arbitration to have met the standards set forth in section 1163, subsection 2, for vehicles required to be replaced or refunded, and if the manufacturer of the motor vehicle is found to have failed to provide the refund or replacement as required, the manufacturer shall, within 21 days from the receipt of a finding, deliver the refund or replacement, including the costs and collateral charges set forth in section 1163, subsection 2, or appeal the finding in Superior Court. For good cause, a manufacturer may seek from the Department of the Attorney General an extension of the time within which it must deliver to the consumer a replacement vehicle. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  5. Appeal of arbitration decision. No appeal by a manufacturer or the consumer of the arbitrator’s findings may be heard unless the petition for appeal is filed with the Superior Court of the county in which the sale occurred, within 21 days of issuance of the finding of the state-certified arbitration. In the event that any state-certified arbitration resulting in an award of a refund or replacement is upheld by the court, recovery by the consumer may include continuing damages up to the amount of $25 per day for each day subsequent to the day the motor vehicle was returned to the manufacturer, pursuant to section 1163, that the vehicle was out of use as a direct result of any nonconformity, not issuing from owner negligence, accident, vandalism or any attempt to repair or substantially modify the vehicle by a person other than the manufacturer, its agent or authorized dealer, provided that the manufacturer did not make a comparable vehicle available to the consumer free of charge. In addition to any other recovery, any prevailing consumer shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. If the court finds that the manufacturer did not have any reasonable basis for its appeal or that the appeal was frivolous, the court shall double the amount of the total award to the consumer. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  6. Consumer’s rights if arbitrator denies relief. The provisions of this chapter shall not be construed to limit or restrict in any way the rights or remedies provided to consumers under this chapter or any other state law. In addition, if any consumer is dissatisfied with any finding of state-certified arbitration, the consumer shall have the right to apply to the manufacturer’s informal dispute settlement procedure, if the consumer has not already done so, or may appeal that finding to the Superior Court of the county in which the sale occurred, within 21 days of the decision. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  7. Disclosure of consumer lemon law rights. A clear and conspicuous disclosure of the rights of the consumer under this chapter shall be provided by the manufacturer to the consumer along with ownership manual materials. The form and manner of these notices shall be prescribed by rule of the Department of the Attorney General. The notice disclosures shall not include window stickers. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  8. Manufacturer’s failure to abide by arbitrator’s decision. The failure of a manufacturer either to abide by the decision of state-certified arbitration or to file a timely appeal shall entitle any prevailing consumer who has brought an action to enforce this chapter to an award of no less than 2 times the actual award, unless the manufacturer can prove that the failure was beyond the manufacturer’s control or can show it was the result of a written agreement with the consumer. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  9. Consumer request for information. Upon request from the consumer, the manufacturer or dealer shall provide a copy of all repair records for the consumer’s motor vehicle and all reports relating to that motor vehicle, including reports by the dealer or manufacturer concerning inspection, diagnosis or test-drives of that vehicle and any technical reports, bulletins or notices issued by the manufacturer regarding the specific make and model of the consumer’s new motor vehicle as it pertains to any material, feature, component or the performance of the motor vehicle. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  10. Penalties. It shall be prima facie evidence of an unfair trade practice under Title 5, chapter 10, for a manufacturer, within 21 days of receipt of any finding in favor of the consumer in state-certified arbitration, to fail to appeal the finding and not deliver a refund or replacement vehicle or not receive from the Department of the Attorney General an extension of time for delivery of the replacement vehicle. [1989, c. 570, §5 (new).]
  11. Arbitration and mediation account. To defray the costs incurred by the Department of the Attorney General in resolving consumer new and used motor vehicle disputes through the Maine lemon law arbitration program and, for vehicles that do not qualify for arbitration, the consumer mediation service, the following fees are imposed.
    1. A $1 Maine lemon law arbitration program fee must be collected by the authorized new car dealer from the purchaser as part of each new motor vehicle sale agreement. [1993, c. 415, Pt. K, §2 (new).]
    2. A $1 consumer mediation service fee must be collected by the used car dealer from the purchaser as part of each used motor vehicle sale agreement. [1993, c. 415, Pt. K, §2 (new).]

    The Secretary of State shall adopt rules to implement this subsection. The rules must provide that the fees imposed by this subsection must be forwarded annually by the dealer or its successor to the Secretary of State and deposited in the General Fund. At the end of each fiscal year, the Department of the Attorney General shall prepare a report listing the money generated by these fees during the fiscal year and the expenses incurred in administering its consumer dispute resolution programs. [1993, c. 415, Pt. K, §2 (rpr).]

Do you have a Lemon Car?

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a Federal Law that protects the buyer of any product which costs more than $25 and comes with an express written warranty. This law applies to any product that you buy that does not perform as it should.

Your car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its expected dependability and safety. Accordingly, you are entitled to expect an automobile properly constructed and regulated to provide reasonably safe, trouble-free, and dependable transportation – regardless of the exact make and model you bought. Unfortunately, sometimes these principles do not hold true and defects arise in automobiles. Although one defect is not actionable, repeated defects are as there exists a generally accepted rule that unsuccessful repair efforts render the warrantor liable. Simply put, there comes a time when “enough is enough” – when after having to take your car into the shop for repairs an inordinate number of times and experiencing all of the attendant inconvenience, you are entitled to say, ‘That’s all,’ and revoke, notwithstanding the seller’s repeated good faith efforts to fix the car. The rationale behind these basic principles is clear: once your faith in the vehicle is shaken, the vehicle loses its real value to you and becomes an instrument whose integrity is impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension. The question thus becomes when is “enough”?

As you know, enough is never enough from your warrantor’s point of view and you should simply continue to have your defective vehicle repaired – time and time again. However, you are not required to allow a warrantor to tinker with your vehicle indefinitely in the hope that it may eventually be fixed. Rather, you are entitled to expect your vehicle to be repaired within a reasonable opportunity. To this end, both the federal Moss Warranty Act, and the various state “lemon laws,” require repairs to your vehicle be performed within a reasonable opportunity.

Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a warrantor should perform adequate repairs in at least two, and possibly three, attempts to correct a particular defect. Further, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s reasonableness requirement applies to your vehicle as a whole rather than to each individual defect that arises. Although most of the Lemon Laws vary from state to state, each individual law usually require a warrantor to cure a specific defect within four to five attempts or the automobile as a whole within thirty days. If the warrantor fails to meet this obligation, most of the lemon laws provide for a full refund or new replacement vehicle. Further, this reasonable number of attempts/reasonable opportunity standard, whether it be that of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or that of the Lemon Laws, is akin to strict liability – once this threshold has been met, the continued existence of a defect is irrelevant and you are still entitled to relief.

One of the most important parts of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is its fee shifting provision. This provision provides that you may recover the attorney fees incurred in the prosecution of your case if you are successful – independent of how much you actually win. That rational behind this fee shifting provision is to twofold: (1) to ensure you will be able to vindicate your rights without having to expend large sums on attorney’s fees and (2) because automobile manufacturers are able to write off all expenses of defense as a legitimate business expense, whereas you, the average consumer, obviously does not have that kind of economic staying power. Most of the Lemon Laws contain similar fee shifting provisions.

You may also derive additional warranty rights from the Uniform Commercial Code; however, the Code does not allow you in most states to recover your attorney fees and is also not as consumer friendly as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or the various state lemon laws.

The narrative information on Magnuson-Moss, UCC and Maine lemon laws on these pages is provided by Marshall Meyers, attorney.

Do you have a Lemon Car?

Uniform Commercial Code Summary

The Uniform Commercial Code or UCC has been enacted in all 50 states and some of the territories of the United States. It is the primary source of law in all contracts dealing with the sale of products. The TARR refers to Tender, Acceptance, Rejection, Revocation and applies to different aspects of the consumer’s “relationship” with the purchased goods.

TENDER –The tender provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code contained in Section2-601 provide that the buyer is entitled to reject any goods that fail in any respect to conform to the contract. Unfortunately, new cars are often technically complex and their innermost workings are beyond the understanding of the average new car buyer. The buyer, therefore, does not know whether the goods are then conforming.

ACCEPTANCE –The new car buyer accepts the goods believing and expecting that the manufacturer will repair any problem he has with the goods under the warranty.

REJECTION –The new car buyer may discover a problem with the vehicle within the first few miles of his purchase. This would allow the new car buyer to reject the goods. If the new car buyer discovers a defect in the car within a reasonable time to inspect the vehicle, he may reject the vehicle. This period is not defined. On the one hand, the buyer must be given a reasonable time to inspect and that reasonable time to inspect will be held as an acceptance of the vehicle. The Courts will decide this reasonable time to inspect based on the knowledge and experience of the buyer, the difficulty in discovering the defect, and the opportunity to discover the defect. The following is an example of a case of rejection: Mr. Zabriskie purchase a new 1966 Chevrolet Biscayne. After picking up the car on Friday evening, while en route to his home 2.5 miles away, and within 7/10ths of a mile from the dealership, the car stalled and stalled again within 15 feet. Thereafter, the car would only drive in low gear. The buyer rejected the vehicle and stopped payment on his check. The dealer contended that the buyer could not reject the car because he had driven it around the block and that was his reasonable opportunity to inspect. The New Jersey Court said;

To the layman, the complicated mechanisms of today’s automobile are a complete mystery. To have the automobile inspected by someone with sufficient expertise to disassemble the vehicle in order the discover latent defects before the contract is signed, is assuredly impossible and highly impractical. Consequently, the first few miles of driving become even more significant to the excited new car buyer. This is the buyer’s first reasonable opportunity to enjoy his new vehicle to see if it conforms to what it was represented to be and whether he is getting what he bargained for. How long the buyer may drive the new car under the guise of inspection of new goods is not an issue in the present case because 7/10th of a mile is clearly within the ambit of a reasonable opportunity to inspect. Zabriskie Chevrolet, Inc. v. Smith, 240 A. 2d 195(1968)

It is suggested that Courts will tend to excuse use by consumers if possible.

REVOCATION –What happens when the consumer has used the new car for a lengthy period of time? This is the typical lemon car case. The UCC provides that a buyer may revoke his acceptance of goods whose non-conformity substantially impairs the value of the goods to him when he has accepted the goods without discovery of a non-conformity because it was difficult to discover or if he was assured that non-conformities would be repaired. Of course, the average new car buyer does not learn of the nonconformity until hundreds of thousands of miles later. And because quality is job one, and manufacturers are competing on the basis of their warranties, the consumer always is assured that any nonconformities he does discover will be remedied. What is a noncomformity substantially impairing the value of the vehicle?

  1. A nonconformity may include a number of relatively minor defects whose cumulative total adds up to a substantial impairment. This is the “Shake Faith” Doctrine first stated in the Zabrisikie case. “For a majority of people the purchase of a new car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its dependability and safety. Once their faith is shaken, the vehicle loses not only its real value in their eyes, but becomes an instrument whose integrity is substantially impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension”.
  2. A substantial noncomformity may include a failure or refusal to repair the goods under the warranty. In Durfee V. Rod Baxter Imports, the Minnesota Court held that the Saab owner that was plagued by a series of of annoying minor defects and stalling, which were never repaired after a number of attempts, could revoke, “if repairs are not successfully undertaken within a reasonable time”, the consumer may elect to revoke.
  3. Substantial Non Conformity and Lemon Laws often define what may be considered a substantial impairment. These definitions have been successfully used to flesh out the substantial impairment in the UCC.

Additional narrative information on Magnusson-Moss, UCC and Maine lemon laws on these pages is provided by T. Michael Flinn, attorney.

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