(561) LEMON LAW
(561) LEMON LAW
Illinois Lemon Law Attorney, John Smith -
practicing lemon law since 2003
What is a lemon law?
Lemon laws regulate manufacturers of consumer products (like new cars) that sell their products with a warranty. So, if you buy a consumer product that comes with a warranty, the lemon laws determine your legal rights and remedies in the event of a breach of the warranty by the manufacturer.
What is a breach of the warranty? When a manufacturer does not perform its obligations under a warranty, then the manufacturer has breached its warranty. So, if you have a warranty by the manufacturer to repair any defects but they failed to fix the defects after you brought it into a dealer for repairs, the lemon laws provide a remedy, including refund/replacement and attorney fees and court costs.
In Illinois, there are two (2) applicable lemon laws. The first is the Illinois New Vehicle Buyer Protection Act which was enacted by the Illinois State legislature. The Second is the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act which was enacted by the United States Congress. Obviously, one is a state law and the other is a federal law, so the former only applies to transactions concluded in Illinois but the latter applies to transactions concluded in all fifty (50) states, including Illinois.
The Illinois law only applies to the purchase of new vehicles. The federal statute applies to all consumer products sold with a warranty that cost more than $25. So, if you bought a new vehicle in Illinois that came with a warranty, both statutes apply. If you bought a used vehicle in Illinois that came with a warranty, only the federal statute applies. Or if you bought, for example, an appliance or power tool or computer that came with a warranty, only the federal magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies.
In other words, the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act will always apply so long as the product came with a warranty and cost more than $25.
What benefits does the New Vehicle Buyer Protection Act offer that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act does not? Practically speaking, nothing.
While the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act has been law since 1975, individual states have since enacted their own “lemon laws” to offer their citizens additional legal protections for their vehicles. (Remember: Mag-Moss covers all consumer products, not just vehicles, so long as they cost more than $25, e.g. household appliances, electronics, power tools, etc.) Presumably, the individual State lemon laws recognize the importance that vehicles play in our daily lives – transportation to/from work – and the substantial investment of money required by individual households. So, each State has enacted lemon laws which offer similar and, in most cases, greater protections (with regard to vehicles) than the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. Not Illinois, however. Illinois’s lemon law does not offer greater protections than the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. It offers much less protection than the federal statute.
In the case of a vehicle manufacturer’s limited warranty, the manufacturer promises to fix any defects free of charge within an agreed upon term (ex: 3 years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first). Under the law, the repairs must be made within a reasonable time or reasonable number of attempts. Most people expect that any defect will be fixed right the first time. But mistakes happen or sometimes the problem is misdiagnosed, so the law allows a reasonable number of attempts to fix the problem. Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the defect must be fixed within a reasonable time or reasonable number of attempts and what is “reasonable” usually depends upon the circumstances. What is reasonable is for the jury to decide.
But under the Illinois lemon law (New Vehicle Buyer Protection Act), the number of repair attempts for the same problem is not deemed unreasonable until after four (4) failed attempts. Can you imagine having to bring your car in for the same problem four (4) times? Would any mechanic or repair shop survive in the real world after the “bad word of mouth” and poor business reputation that would result from being unable to fix a car right within four (4) attempts? However, the law in Illinois allows a manufacturer’s authorized dealer’s service department four chances to fix your car before you are entitled to a refund or replacement. And, then, only if the problem is one that substantially affects the use, safety, or market value of the vehicle. And, then, only if the four (4) repair attempts occurred within the first twelve (12) months or 12,000 miles of the car’s use. And, then, only if you file suit within eighteen (18) months after you purchased the car. But first you have to hire an attorney. The Illinois lemon law does not provide for attorneys fees to be paid by the manufacturer upon refund or replacement. So, by the time you’ve paid your attorney, you might have just traded the car in and taken the same “hit” you would by paying an attorney to file a claim under the Illinois lemon law.
Under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, there is no set number to determine what is a reasonable number of repair attempts. It could depend on the circumstances. For instance, four (4) failed attempts to fix a non-safety-related problem might be reasonable but two (2) failed attempts to fix a safety-related problem is unreasonable. If your car’s engine was stalling at highway speeds, would you really think the manufacturer deserves four (4) chances to fix the problem before you are entitled to a refund or replacement? Not if you value human life. So, under the federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, what is reasonable depends on the circumstances, not an arbitrarily determined number of attempts as in the Illinois lemon law.
Also, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows you to file suit against the manufacturer for a breach of warranty that occurs at a time within the terms of the warranty. So, if the manufacturer gives a limited warranty that covers 4 years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first, the mere fact that the problems began after the first twelve (12) months or 12,000 miles of the car’s use will not preclude you from legal relief, unlike the Illinois lemon law.
Also, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows you four (4) years after you purchased the car to file suit, unlike the eighteen (18) month restriction under the Illinois lemon law.
Also, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows for a consumer to recover his attorney fees and court costs from the manufacturer, unlike the Illinois lemon law. Consumer protection statutes typically include what is referred to as a “fee-shifting provision.” This allows the consumer who prevails upon a defendant to recover his attorney fees and court costs incurred in litigation. Without a fee-shifting provision, most consumers are unable to hire an attorney and therefore remain at a distinct disadvantage compared with a wealthy corporation, such as a vehicle manufacturer.
If you would like to contact your Illinois State Representative and/or Illinois State Senator to voice your disapproval of the Illinois lemon law, you can find out who your state representative/senator is and their contact information here:
Click on links: http://www.elections.il.gov/DistrictLocator/DistrictOfficialSearchByAddress.aspx
 815 ILCS 380/1, et. seq.
 15 USC 2301, et. seq.