Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act
The federal "lemon law" is the Magnusson
Moss Act. California's "lemon law" is found in the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.
The law provides that when a manufacturer cannot repair consumer goods after a reasonable number of attempts, it
must either replace the defective product or refund the consumer's money. Generally, the manufacturer of your "lemon
vehicle", as opposed to the selling dealer, bears the final responsibility to re-purchase or replace your
defective car, truck, boat, RV, motor home, or motorcycle.
Generally, the consumer, and not the manufacturer, has the option to select either a replacement or a refund. Moreover,
consumers do not have to demand what they are rightfully entitled to under the law. Instead, the law requires that
the manufacturer initiate an appropriate offer to the consumer once a reasonable number of attempts to repair the
defective vehicle has failed.
A common misconception about the law is that California's lemon law is simply a formula of three or four times
in the shop for the same warranty repair within one year or 12,000 miles. What people call the lemon law is actually
a very small portion of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, which gives consumers an evidentiary advantage,
in the event they go to trial, so long as they meet specified criteria.
In most lemon law cases, the consumer must prove, among other things, that the auto manufacturer (through its authorized
warranty repair facilities) has had a reasonable number of opportunities to repair the vehicle. The Song-Beverly
Act established a rebuttable presumption for the benefit of consumers where the same nonconformity has been subject
to repair four or more times within 18 months or 18,000 miles (recently expanded from 1 year or 12,000 miles).
If this standard is met, then the consumer need introduce no further evidence to prove that the manufacturer has
had a reasonable number of repair attempts. It is ironic that manufacturers have consistently used this provision - specifically designed to assist consumers if they are forced to litigate - to limit the consumers' right to recovery.
This presumption, by its own terms, is no more than "a rebuttable presumption affecting the burden of proof." Thus,
it applies only when the case goes
to trial. Even then, the question
of whether the manufacturer had a "reasonable number of attempts" remains a question of fact. Even four unsuccessful
attempts at repairing a problem may not conclusively prove that a consumer is entitled to a refund or replacement.
Replacement or reimbursement is still dependent upon "a reasonable number of attempts" to conform the vehicle to
the warranty. The presumption is simply our Legislature's decision to establish standards that a consumer must
meet in order to have the right to invoke the presumption at the time of trial.
Even if there have been fewer than four attempts to repair the same problem and the presumption, a jury still could
find that a reasonable number of repair attempts have taken place.
For specific answers about how the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act applies to your lemon vehicle, submit this form for a free consultation.