Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice
We’ve all seen the commercial: a young woman is drinking coffee by a window in her home when her husband surprises her with a new car. What they don’t show you are the frequent problems and repairs that some lemons require. Whether you’re buying a gift car or your own car, you need to know your rights under Ohio’s Lemon Law (new and slightly used cars) and Ohio’s other consumer laws.
Ohio Lemon Law
In Ohio, if you purchase a brand new car (a car with less than 18,000 miles or a car purchased within the first year of its original delivery date) and you find that it does not live up to the warranties provided with the car, you may be entitled to have the dealer or manufacturer repaid the non-conforming problem with the car, even if those repairs need to be made after that original 18,000 mile/one-year period. The problems themselves must occur within the first 18,000 or one year period. Warranties can include any representations about the car, such as it being “defect free” or having “no mechanic problems,” etc. New cars are normally sold with warranties regarding performance, safety, etc.
The dealer or manufacturer is allowed a “reasonable number” of opportunities to fix the car, meaning you may have to take the vehicle to them multiple times. Ohio law generally presumes that a reasonable number of repairs has been attempted when the same problem re-occurs after three attempts to fix it, the vehicle is out of service due to repair for thirty or more calendar days, or there have been eight or more attempted repairs of any problem.
After a reasonable number of repairs have been attempted, and if the problems still persist, the manufacturer is required by law to provide a replacement new vehicle to the satisfaction of the owner, or refund the full purchase price of the vehicle along with vehicle rental, towing, lease cancellation fees, and other related damages. Either way you need to return the defective vehicle. If the manufacturer refuses to comply with these requirements, you can bring a lawsuit seeking attorney fees, court costs, and your actual damages against the manufacturer. You should seek help from an attorney the moment you get resistance from the manufacturer or dealership.
Other Consumer Protection Laws
There are other federal laws (Magnuson Moss Warranty Act) and Ohio laws (Consumer Sales Practices Act) that protect you regardless of whether you buy a new or used car. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act protects you when your vehicle fails to meet the written warranties provided to you with the car. The Consumer Sales Practices Act requires car dealerships to include specific notices in their sale contracts notifying Ohio consumers about their rights, and also post notices in many vehicles themselves about whether a car is being sold with a warranty or “as-is.” If a dealership misrepresents any qualities, characteristics, warranties, or other information about the car, you as the buyer could be entitled to either cancel the contract and receive a refund, or receive damages, sometimes equal to triple the amount of damages suffered, plus attorney fees and court costs.
There are strict time limits on these claims under the Consumer Sales Practices Act. You need to rescind a contract if you want a refund within “a reasonable amount of time” after the transaction. If you want to sue for damages, you must do so within two years from the date the bad act (misrepresentation, failure to use a required form, etc.) took place.
For example, if you purchase a used car that the dealership represented had a warranty for 50% parts and labor, and the dealership later refuses to honor that warranty, forcing you to pay $5,000 out of pocket for repairs, your actual damages are at least $2,500 (the amount the warranty would have covered), and the law allows you to receive up to $7,500, plus attorney fees. If you wait too long, the best you could hope for is $2,500.
Would you rather collect $2,500 or $7,500? Would you rather pay an attorney 33% of your $2,500 or of your $10,000+? If you don’t contact an attorney soon enough, you won’t have any choice. Don’t lose out on money you are legally entitled to, and don’t get ripped off by a lemon or deceptive car dealer. Contact an attorney as soon as you have a problem.