Have ‘lemon law’ to protect car buyers, says consumer group

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KUALA LUMPUR: Would a new car buyer prefer to get a replacement for a defective vehicle or have it constantly repaired during the warranty period?

Following a spike in complaints about vehicle purchases and after-sales service, a local consumer advocacy group wants the “lemon law” introduced here to enable consumers to make claims within a short period of time for defective products.

National Consumers Complaints Centre (NCCC) director Ratna Devi Nadarajan said last year, it received 4,915 complaints and most were related to new cars manufactured by top companies, both locally and abroad.

“From the complaints,the total potential monetary loss from the automobile industry is estimated at about RM22 million,” she told The Malaysian Insider ahead of a seminar to discuss the law in Kuala Kumpur this week.

The lemon law allows consumers to get a product replaced if they can prove that the defect was already present when the item was purchased. These defective items are colloquially called “lemons”.

In the United States, the lemon law allows remedy for purchasers of cars (and, later on, other consumer goods) to be compensated for products that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality and performance.

Singapore, the Philippines, China, Japan and South Korea also have such laws to protect their consumers, including vehicle purchasers.

Ratna said under the lemon law, consumers are entitled to get replacements of the faulty products, or a refund or a price reduction.

“At the moment, the vague warranty clause does not give sufficient protection to our vehicle buyers,” she said, adding that manufacturers or their agents tend to wash their hands of the problem once the warranty period expires.

She said at present, the onus is on consumers to prove the vehicles were faulty when purchased. “If the lemon law is in place, the burden will be shifted to manufacturers and their agents.”

Ratna said NCCC wants the government to introduce the legislation because new vehicles sold in Malaysia are expensive due to the imposition of heavy tax and there is no  regulatory body or redress avenue for consumers who have complaints about the vehicles they bought.

The NCCC, she said, has met with a few officials on the implementation of the lemon law but the response so far has been lukewarm.

“But we will continue to push for the implementation of the law, be it as a separate legislation or something that works alongside all existing laws concerning consumers,” she said. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 14, 2014.