A look into the state's lemon laws - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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A look into the state's lemon laws

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RIDGEFIELD, CT (WFSB) -

Eyewitness News took a deeper look at the Connecticut lemon laws after one consumer told us their complaint.

When George MacDonald bought a brand new customized BMW x3 28I in 2011, he thought his car would run smoothly for years to come.

However, his purchase wasn't what he expected.

"I wasn't sure if it was me or if it was the car," MacDonald said.

He said the car would sporadically pause when hitting the gas pedal after stopping.

"When you pressed on the gas, the car wouldn't respond. You had to press a little more and the car still wouldn't respond," MacDonald said. "When you would press a little harder, the car would shoot off like a rocket. And almost give you whiplash."

MacDonald told Eyewitness News that he complained to BMW of Ridgefield, the dealer where he bought the car.

"About the fourth time I complained, they said well, BMW had actually found a problem and had a fix for it," he said. "And that was the first time they actually acknowledged it."

After the car was serviced, MacDonald told Eyewitness News the problem wasn't as severe, but certainly not fixed.

The repair even added another hesitation when shifting gears.

"I have to make sure that if the car hesitates, I don't get stuck in the middle of the intersection," MacDonald said. "So I was very careful."

He asked the manufacturer to exchange his car with a new one.

After several months of going back and forth with the company, BMW denied him, so he turned to the Department of Consumer Protection for help.

Consumers that find themselves in a situation such as MacDonald can file a complaint under the New Automobile Warranty Act, or the lemon law.

"I think this is more or less a back stop for consumers, when they're really at their wits end, they don't know where else to go," said Richard Maloney of Department of Consumer Protection. "We offer them a good mediated solution for their problems."

Lemon law cases are heard by an arbitration panel.

Both the manufacturer and the consumer are given the opportunity to defend their side. The Department of Consumer Protection then determines if the complaint is founded.

"Once the arbitrator rules, the manufacturer is required to comply," Maloney said.

The arbitrator found that MacDonald's car was a lemon, and BMW was required to make it right. MacDonald is expecting his new car to be ready for him any day now.

The automotive warranty statute applies only to new cars and not used ones. 

Eligible cars must meet the following requirements:

  • Cars must be no more than two years old or 24,000 miles.
  • The repair doesn't conform to the warranty.
  • The consumer gave the manufacturer four attempts to fix the issues.

There are some safeguards for consumers against defective used cars through the Department of Motor Vehicles, but it is far more limited than the protection offered to buyers of new cars.

The Department of Motor Vehicles requires that certain eligible used cars be carried under warranty if it was purchased through a dealership.

There is no binding arbitration process, and a car must meet certain requirements to be eligible.

For more information about lemon laws, click the link for the Department of Consumer Protection.

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