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How do we get defective vehicles replaced?

In the US, the Lemon Laws of different states determine whether a vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon’, requiring the manufacturer to either replace it or refund its cost to the consumer, writes Pushpa Girimaji.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2010 00:39 IST
Pushpa Girimaji

In the US, the Lemon Laws of different states determine whether a vehicle qualifies as a ‘lemon’, requiring the manufacturer to either replace it or refund its cost to the consumer.

Under the New Jersey Lemon Law, for example, a new vehicle is presumed to be a lemon if it has one or more defects that exist even after three attempts at repairs or after the vehicle has been out of service for 20 calendar days.

I mention this to underscore the need for a similar law in our country. Today, in the absence of such a law, consumers find it difficult to hold manufacturers and dealers accountable for defective vehicles. Even in consumer court orders, there is lot of ambiguity on what constitutes 'manufacturing defect' and under what circumstances should a consumer get a refund or a replacement.

Take the case of Sushila Automobiles vs Dr Birendra Narain Prasad decided by the apex consumer court in May this year. The District Forum in Ranchi held the defects in the car were of minor nature and therefore it could not accede to the consumer’s demand for a replacement or a refund. It merely asked the manufacturer to rectify the defects.

The consumer court at the state level, to which the consumer appealed against this order, held a different view. It’s verdict was that since the defects could not be rectified and the vehicle remained mostly with the dealer (for repairs), the vehicle had inherent manufacturing defects. It therefore ordered replacement of the vehicle.

The National Commission however disagreed and said the car only suffered from ‘minor defects’ which were not ‘manufacturing defects’. So the demand for replacement was not justified.

This brings us to the crucial question: what are the grounds on which a manufacturer should replace a car? What constitutes a manufacturing defect? I would say that whether it is a major or a minor defect, so long as it impairs use of the car the consumer should get a replacement.

N. Srinath: I purchased a new vehicle in Feb 2009 and have been having trouble with it since April 2009. My issues continue to be ‘investigated’ by the manufacturer, putting me at significant inconvenience and cost. I need help to pursue the matter with the consumer court.

Answer: You need to have documents to prove the continuing problem with the car (job cards, for example). You also need to get an independent expert’s opinion on the defects in the car. I would suggest you contact the Consumer Guidance Society of India (www.cgsiindia.org. Ph: 022-22621612) or Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (022- 26288624).

Do you have any problems?

Send in your queries to: pgirimaji@gmail.com