Florida’s Lemon Law Arbitration Program has surpassed the $300 million mark in refunds and replacements for consumers who bought chronically defective new vehicles, Attorney General Charlie Crist announced recently. Since 1989, the Lemon Law program has produced refunds or replacement vehicles in 70 percent of cases, providing relief for almost 12,000 consumers.
The $300 million mark was reached late last week with final confirmation of a prehearing settlement in favor of Melissa and Timothy Torgersen, a Central Florida couple who complained that their 2003 Ford Explorer Sport-Trac intermittently would not start. Ford Motor Company agreed to repurchase the vehicle and paid $25,038 in cash and loan payoff. The Torgersens live in the Polk County town of Davenport.
“For 16 years, Florida’s Lemon Law program has been a model among consumer protection efforts,” said Crist. “Floridians have somewhere to turn when their new car turns out to be a lemon, and $300 million in relief shows that many have relied on this free consumer service.”
Since 1989, the Attorney General’s Lemon Law unit has handled 17,019 cases, with 11,878 of these ending in a recovery for the consumer – 70 percent of all cases. The total dollar value of the recoveries through the end of 2004 was $300,154,389, with additional cases pending. The Lemon Law Arbitration Program is housed within the Attorney General’s Office and is jointly administered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The Lemon Law applies to new car warranty problems reported within the first 24 months of ownership. It allows consumers to obtain a refund or vehicle replacement after a manufacturer fails to repair warranty problems within a reasonable number of attempts or a vehicle has been out of service at least 30 days. The problems must be of such a nature that they substantially impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle.
The Lemon Law program offers consumers a quick and free alternative to court litigation to resolve disputes. Consumers do not need an attorney to participate in the Lemon Law arbitration process, and consumers who lose an arbitration case are not required to pay the manufacturer’s attorney fees as they could be in unsuccessful litigation.
The program is funded by a $2 fee charged when consumers buy or enter a long-term lease on a new or demonstrator vehicle. The fee has remained unchanged since 1989.
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