Statutes 50-645 – 50-646
Motor vehicle warranties; definitions; consumer rights and remedies; enforcement by attorney general.
As used in this act:
“Consumer” means the original purchaser or lessee, other than for purposes of resale, of a motor vehicle; and
“motor vehicle” means a new motor vehicle which is sold or leased in this state, and which is registered for a gross weight of 12,000 pounds or less, and does not include the customized parts of motor vehicles which have been added or modified by second stage manufacturers, first stage converters or second stage converters as defined in K.S.A. 8-2401, and amendments thereto.
If a motor vehicle does not conform to all applicable warranties, and the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer during the term of any warranties or during the period of one year following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer, whichever is the earlier date, the manufacturer, its agent or its authorized dealer shall make such repairs as are necessary to conform the vehicle to such warranties, notwithstanding the fact that such repairs are made after the expiration of any such term or such one-year period.
If the manufacturer, or its agents or authorized dealers, are unable to conform the motor vehicle to any applicable warranty after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer shall replace the motor vehicle with a comparable motor vehicle under warranty or accept return of the vehicle from the consumer and refund to the consumer the full purchase or lease price including all collateral charges, less a reasonable allowance for the consumer’s use of the vehicle as calculated from the most recent edition of Your Driving Costs, published by the American automobile association. Refunds shall be made to the consumer, and lienholder if any, as their interests may appear. A reasonable allowance for use shall be that amount directly attributable to use by the consumer and any previous consumer prior to the first report of the nonconformity to the manufacturer, agent or dealer and during any subsequent period when the vehicle is not out of service by reason of repair. It shall be an affirmative defense to any claim under this act that:
An alleged nonconformity does not substantially impair such use and value; or
a nonconformity is the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modifications or alterations of a motor vehicle by a consumer.
If the manufacturer receives actual notice of the nonconformity, it shall be presumed that a reasonable number of attempts have been undertaken to conform a motor vehicle to the applicable warranties, if:
The same nonconformity which substantially impairs the use and value of the motor vehicle to the consumer has been subject to repair four or more times by the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers within the term of any warranty or during the period of one year following the date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer, whichever is the earlier date, but such nonconformity continues to exist;
the vehicle is out of service by reason of repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days during such term or period, whichever is the earlier date; or
there have been 10 or more attempts to repair any nonconformities which substantially impair the use and value of the motor vehicle to the consumer and such attempts to repair have been attempts by the manufacturer or its agents or authorized dealers.
The term of any warranty, such one-year period and such thirty-day period shall be extended by any period of time during which repair services are not available to the consumer because of war, invasion, strike, fire, flood or other natural disaster.
If a manufacturer has established an informal dispute settlement procedure which complies in all respects with the provisions of title 16, code of federal regulations, part 703, as from time to time amended, the provisions of subsection (c) concerning refunds or replacement shall not apply to any consumer who has not first resorted to such procedure.
The attorney general shall have jurisdiction to enforce this section.
Statute: #50-646 Same; Other Remedies
Nothing in this act shall in any way limit or affect the rights or remedies which are otherwise available to a consumer under the uniform consumer credit code, or to any person under the uniform commercial code, or to any person under this or any other law statutory or otherwise.
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.
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.
The tender provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code contained in Section 2-601 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.
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.
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.
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 noncomformities he does discover will be remedied.
What is a noncomformity substantially impairing the value of the vehicle?
A noncomformity 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”.
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.
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.