Being a consumer advocate is something I’ve become very accustomed to. My mom Dr. Thia and I often laugh about how we always find ourselves in situations where we have to advocate, sometimes over and over again for the best outcome. I shared in this blog post about how my mom helped me advocate for a $1.00 bag of popcorn as a kid. That may have been the start of becoming a consumer advocate.
At this point in life, I view being a consumer advocate a challenge. When I have knowledge that things aren’t being handled correctly, I make it known. Politely, but known. My hope is that the next person won’t have to work as hard for what is right. If I were to tell stories here about times I needed to be a consumer advocate, this post would be longer than you have time to read.
So, I’m going to talk about the two must-know laws that you need to know to be an effective consumer advocate. I’ll share a story that illustrates each.
Law Number One: Lemon Laws
I’m going to start with Lemon Laws, because I think it is likely at a minimum a term you’ve potentially heard of before. Lemon Laws are state-by-state laws; therefore, I’m not going to go into specifics. Here is a reliable resource with a breakdown of state-by-state Lemon Law details. Head to that link if you want to know the specifics of your state’s laws.
Lemon Laws are in place to protect consumers if they purchase a motor vehicle and sometimes other consumer goods that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality. Lemon Laws detail what types of vehicles and consumer goods are covered and the definitions for standards of quality. If you are facing issues with a new vehicle needed repeated repairs and/or the dealer repeatedly fails to fix the repairs, knowing the Lemon Law in your state can help you be a more effective consumer advocate.
Example of Using the Lemon Laws to be a Consumer Advocate
Last year we purchased a car that was still under the original manufacturer warranty. We are now in a situation where we need to know what the Lemon Laws in the State of Missouri are. By law, our car meets the definition of a covered vehicle. If the dealer fails to make repairs within four attempts or it takes them more than 30 days to get the repair fixed, we could request that they buy back the vehicle under state law.
While it’s our hope they will get the car fixed, as I write this blog post, they’ve had our car three times in the last month for a total of 11 days. They most recently had the car for two days and said they had reviewed their work and found no issues with the car. Therefore, I’m doubtful that the problem is fixed. If in fact I drive the car and it continues making the concerning grinding noise, and I take it in one more time and they fail to identify and fix the problem, I know that I have state law on my side to put additional pressure on them to resolve the issue.
I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen, but I would have the right under our state law to require them to buy back the car. That is not in their interest, though, so they could keep putting me off. I won’t lose sleep over it, as I know this is the law and having the law on your side and willpower can go a long way.
If it does get to that situation and I continue to have issues with them, I will contact my State Attorneys General’s office. They have staff and support for helping consumers with these types of conflicts.
Law Number 2: Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
This is the federal law behind Lemon Laws. It was enacted in 1975 and is the law that governs warranties on consumer products. Consumer goods can be sold “as-is”; however, those that have a warranty must have a warranty that complies with this law.
In the most simple version, this Act is supposed to make it illegal for manufacturers to make misleading statements within their warranties or overuse disclaimers to minimize the warranties effectiveness. Therefore, if you are having an issue with a company claiming they don’t have to make a repair while a product is under warranty, this law may be beneficial to know.
Likewise, say a consumer product has an issue while the product is under warranty. The company repairs it, and then after the warranty runs out the part fails again. Good news, you can use this Warranty Act to say that the product has a known issue and request the product to be repaired do to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This can come in very handy!
To now more about the Act, head over to the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Example of Using the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
Refrigerators that have the ice machine in the refrigerator section have a design flaw. The ice maker needs to be below freezing, while obviously the refrigerator section is at a higher temperature. So, they are constantly competing. This is what causes ice makers in the refrigerator to stop working.
That is information I did not know a few years ago. We bought our house and my one request was have a really nice refrigerator. I had always rented, so I never had a nice refrigerator with a ice machine and water dispenser in the door. I always had to use ice trays. We went shopping, and I found the biggest-baddest refrigerator there was (It wasn’t one with the touchscreen on the door or anything) but it was the refrigerator of my dreams. It had four doors – two on top for the refrigerator, and two on bottom for the freezer sections – one could be used as a freezer or a refrigerator depending on your needs. It was slick. It had the icemaker in the main refrigerator section.
We had the thing about 9 months and the ice machine went out. It was within the one year warranty, so they sent someone out to look at it. They thought perhaps the compressor was going bad, but it simply turned out the ice maker was faulty. They fixed it. The one year warranty was up, and about 4 months later, boom the ice maker stopped working again. You might think we were high and dry without a working ice machine unless we paid for it to be fixed.
Not so fast! I pulled out the fancy words “Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act” and the manufacturer started treating us a lot differently. Instead of repairing the refrigerator they basically gave us the purchase price amount to go buy a new refrigerator. They knew it was a faulty product and they didn’t want to be at our house once every six or nine months repairing our ice maker. We bought the most standard side-by-side refrigerator you could find – with the ice maker in the freezer section. We haven’t had issues in the three years we’ve had it.
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