Alaska's Lemon Law
What are the Manufacturer’s Responsibilities?
If an owner of a new motor vehicle reports a defect or problem, the manufacturer normally, through its dealer or repairing agent, makes the necessary repairs.
If the manufacturer, dealer, or repairing agent has been unable to repair the defect or problem after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer shall, at the owner’s option, replace the vehicle or give a refund.
When a manufacturer refunds or replaces a motor vehicle, it is also required to refund any reasonable charges the owner may have paid in shipping the defective motor vehicle back and forth to the nearest authorized facility for repairs.
A manufacturer shall ship its dealer or repairing agent parts necessary for warranty repairs by the fastest means available (generally air freight) with no additional charge for freight or handling.
How Does the Lemon Law Define A Resonable Number of Attempts?
First, for a single defect or condition that defies repairs, the Lemon Law says:
"(1) The same nonconformity has been subject to repair three or more times by the manufacturer, distributor, dealer or repairing agent during the term of the express warranty or the one-year period after delivery of the motor vehicle to the original owner, whichever period terminates first, but the nonconformity continues to exist;"
Second, for a motor vehicle that has been out of service for an unreasonable period of time due to a single or multiple defects, the Lemon Law says:
" (2) The vehicle is out of service for repair for a total of 30 or more business days during the express warranty term or the one-year period referred to in (1) of this section, whichever period terminates first;".
What are the Hitches?
The defect or problem must substantially impair the use or the market value of the vehicle.
The defect or problem must not be the result of alteration, abuse or neglect by the owner or a person other than the dealer or repairing agent.
Any period of time that repairs are not performed for reasons that are beyond the control of the manufacturer, dealer or repairing agent is excluded from the 30-day period. This refers to situations such as labor disputes or natural disasters.
The owner must provide written notice via certified mail to the manufacturer and its dealer or repairing agent. Within 30 days after receiving the notice, the manufacturer may make another final attempt to repair the vehicle.
If you choose a refund over a replacement, the refund will not include any accrued finance charges. The manufacturer may also deduct an allowance for your use of the vehicle and for excess depreciation due to damage, neglect or abuse.
If the manufacturer has an approved informal dispute settlement procedure you will be required to arbitrate your dispute before going to court under the lemon law. If the program is not approved by the Attorney General it is your option to arbitrate or to proceed directly to court.
Some Things to Do
You never know when you buy a new car whether it will turn out to be a lemon. As a new car buyer you should check out the dealerships’ service facility as closely as you check out the new vehicle. Is the area clean, organized, and well lit; do the equipment and tools appear modern and well maintained? A dealer who is proud of the service facility will be happy to demonstrate this. Also, ask if the dealer gives appointments for warranty repairs and what is the normal delay in obtaining an appointment.
Prior to the sale, read and understand the warranty. The dealer is required by a Federal trade Commission rule to make all warranties available prior to the sale.
Be wary of purchasing a service contract (extended warranty), especially contracts which are not backed by the vehicle’s manufacturer. Read and understand what is covered and more importantly what is not covered. In most cases the service contracts can be purchased up to the date the manufacturer’s new car warranty expires. Remember, there is little or no benefit from a service contract during a vehicle’s first year.
Prior to taking delivery of your new car, inspect it. If any problems are noted, refuse delivery until they are corrected. Be wary of promises that "We’ll take care of those problems at the first service."
You should be very concerned if a dealer attempts to deliver a new vehicle with obvious defects.
Read, understand and follow maintenance requirements contained in the owner’s manual. Your driving habits may be considered by the manufacturer as a severe operating condition and may require more frequent maintenance.
If problems develop, contact your dealer as soon as possible to request an appointment for repairs. On the appointment day, arrive 15 minutes early and be ready for up to a one-hour delay. Few Alaska dealers offer loaner or courtesy car service. Therefore, you should arrange to be picked up or plan on a cab ride.
Give the service advisor a dated note completely describing all of the conditions about which you are complaining. Do not attempt to diagnose the cause of the conditions, simply describe them.
Keep a copy of the note. Remember: you never know if your new car is going to turn out to be a lemon.
If it is necessary to have your vehicle towed to the dealership, ask the dealer to provide the service or reimbursement for the expenses. Some warranties offer this coverage. Other dealers have a policy that may cover towing expenses. If towing is not provided, keep copies of your bills. The Lemon Law allows for reimbursement of reasonable shipping expenses if the vehicle is later declared a lemon.
An hour or two prior to picking up your vehicle, call the dealer to verify repairs will be completed as scheduled. Often problems develop that can delay the repair process. If this occurs, again request a loaner vehicle.
If your vehicle is in the shop for repairs more than one day, make sure the repair invoice shows the day it was brought in and the day it was picked up.
Keep copies of all repair invoices for maintenance or warranty repairs. The dealer or repairing agent is required by law to furnish a copy of the repair invoice even if the repairs were done under warranty.
If the problems persist, and you end up writing the dealer or manufacturer, keep copies of all correspondence. If you make long distance telephone calls, keep your telephone bills and make notes of the names of anyone you talk to and what you discuss.
The Dealer has Tried Three Times and Still the Problem Persists. Now What?
First, organize all of your documentation. If you are missing any repair orders, contact your dealer or repairing agent and request a copy from its files. The dealer or repairing agent is required by the Alaska Auto Repair Act to maintain these records for two years.
Once you have compiled your documentation, write a chronological description of the history of your vehicle and its problems. When writing this history remember this guide: What, Why, When, How, Where and Who.
Consider consulting with an attorney. If you do not have an attorney, contact the Alaska Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service in Anchorage. The telephone number is 272-0352 (outside of Anchorage call toll-free (800) 770-9999). Some labor union contracts allow for legal services. If you have this coverage, contact your union representative for assistance.
Under the Lemon Law, if you wish to claim a refund or replacement you must give written notice by certified mail to the manufacturer and its dealer or repairing agent. You must send this notice within sixty days after the express warranty ends, or within sixty days after the one-year period ends (measured as one year from the date the motor vehicle was delivered to the original owner), whichever occurs first.
The notice must contain the following information:
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