When consumers purchase an item of clothing at a clothing store or a bottle of milk from the market, only to return home and realize the clothing is torn or the milk is past its expiration date, respectively, they are not shy to return to the store and ask for a refund. The products are not of the quality anticipated and consumers don’t hesitate to return these daily goods. In these circumstances, stores’ customer relations departments are often quick to assist with such returns and refunds.
Vehicle manufacturers, on the other hand, have been successful in not having consumers view automobiles in the same way and often consumers are hesitant to assert their legal rights. Oftentimes, consumers are made to feel guilty or “too picky” if they complain about problems in their newly purchased vehicles. This is by design. Manufacturers “are not in the business of repurchasing cars,” rather they “are in the business of selling them.” But with the average transaction price for a vehicle in the United States now approximately $36,000, consumers should have all the more reason to “get what they pay for” and not be shy to assert legal rights with respect to vehicles just as they would with a torn shirt or sour milk.
The first step a consumer can make is to stand up for himself or herself. In so doing, however, consumers should keep in mind that because manufacturers don’t want to repurchase vehicles they will try to get out of the situation as cheaply as possible. Manufacturers may offer a small cash amount, a free month or two of loan payments, or some other form of “goodwill” gesture as a means of apologizing “for the inconvenience.” We are even aware of one particular consumer who for some reason was randomly offered a free vacuum cleaner from a car manufacturer as a token of apology for her problematic vehicle!
Because manufacturers have a self-serving interest to resolve the situation as cheaply as possible, they often do not properly inform consumers of the full legal entitlement that person may have. To make matters worse, manufacturers will often attempt to have a consumer accept less than the full legal entitlement and sign a “Release” wherein the consumer signs away his or her right to the full amount to which they would otherwise have a claim.
For this reason, once a consumer decides to take a stand, an experienced attorney is a must to properly handle the repurchase process to ensure that the manufacturer complies with their full legal obligations. Without such assistance, manufacturers will surely attempt to short-change the consumer and the consumer will have little recourse. We often see consumers who inform us that the manufacturer was “working with them,” but upon closer inspection have found such things as the person being essentially offered a mere “trade-in” of their problematic vehicle for a new purchase or not full reimbursement for full amounts they were entitled.
Apart from the repurchase money itself, the actual Agreement that is signed by the parties is just as important. Manufacturers will attempt to have consumers sign a one-way “Release” of all claims which include problematic legal terms for the consumer to which the consumer does not fully understand. Consumers may improperly agree to keep the matter confidential and unknowingly subject themselves to fines if they vent about their frustration on social-media or to friends and family. Sometimes, consumers are promised a certain figure but unknowingly give the manufacturer the unilateral right to later deduct from the agreed upon amount if the manufacturer claims the vehicle has other damage and there should be a further deduction. In signing these one-way “Releases,” consumers effectively give the manufacturers all of the power with no recourse on their end because the manufacturer has not signed any sort of agreement itself.
It is for these reasons that a consumer is best served in hiring an experienced attorney in this area of law who understands both the amount of money to which the consumer is entitled in his or her case and the settlement agreement language that is proper. Automobile manufacturers will not treat consumers the same as the local stores’ customer relations department that accepts returns.
If you believe you have a valid claim, are ready to take a stand, and are willing to fight for your full legal entitlement, please do not hesitate to contact us. The Law Offices of Michael Devlin are happy to discuss your case to see if your matter is one to which we can assist.