The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (- Civ. Code, §§ 1790 – 1795.8) – focuses on consumer warranty requirements for retail consumer goods sold in California. The California Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, which was legislated more than five decades ago – in 1970, is recognized to be among the most robust legal safeguards in any state in the nation.
As noted by the act, a consumer good includes most any product bought to be used non-commercially – except food or clothing – referenced as consumables. This also includes vehicles used for personal, family, and household purposes.
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty act may be best known for the legal protections offered to consumers who buy a defective vehicle; thus, the reason why it is most often known as California’s Lemon Law.
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act is an extensive piece of California legislation that includes implied warranties, restrictions on disclaimers of those warranties, and remedies for a host of potential violations.
Due to the nature & the complexity of this California law, many consumers find it necessary to consult with a legal professional to get help with lemon law claims. As a viable legal mechanism, the Song-Beverly Act’s design helps consumers level the playfield against automobile manufacturers or car dealers.
The Song-Beverly Act is designed to specifically enhance and supplement those protections not included in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) in California. The Song-Beverly Act covers all consumer goods, which differs from the first regulation that exclusively focused on motor vehicles. The Magnum-Moss Warranty Federal Trade Commission Improvement Act of 1975 addressed this at the federal level. (15 U.S.C. §§ 2301-23)
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What Does California Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act Cover?
The California Song-Beverly Act applies exclusively to goods sold in California. The legislation will not cover defective consumer goods that have been damaged or not working because of unreasonable or unauthorized use of the consumer goods – after the sale. However, this must be confirmed with evidence.
The Song-Beverly Act covers any vehicle (leased or purchased – or new or used) that is still within the initial new vehicle warranty period. The law will not cover certain motor homes, off-road vehicles, or motorcycles, among others.
The following definitions will help you understand the relevant provisions in the Song Beverly Consumer Warranty Act –
The Retail Buyer
The retail buyer is an individual who buys a consumer good from a “person.” A “person” is, according to this statute, another individual or any other legal entity in the business of selling consumer goods.
The Retail Seller or Retailer
A person or legal entity in the business of retail consumer trade – which may include sales and leasing of consumer goods.
According to the act, a sale is one of two actions – 1. The passing of the motor vehicle’s title (for a price) from the seller to the buyer, or 2. A consignment for sale.
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act applies to “consumer goods.” The statute defines consumer goods as any product (or part of a product) that is bought or leased (as new or used) and used mainly for family, personal, or household purposes.
The Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act generally excludes consumables and clothing. However, the legislation requires all consumer goods (including assistive devices) that are sold at the retail level to a) perform as promised, with a suitable intended purpose. In addition, the following applies –
- Implied Warranty of Merchantability – conforms to promises and label facts.
- Implied Warranty of Fitness – the consumer goods are suitable for their intended purpose.
An express warranty is a statement in writing (issued by a manufacturer or distributor) regarding the expected performance of a consumer good. It will also delineate the compensation should the consumer good fail to meet its required utility or performance and cannot be repaired.
The Song-Beverly Act is applicable to a warranty’s entire period – to both lessees and buyers. If, during the warranty period, a covered issue cannot be fixed (in a reasonable number of attempts – see next paragraph), and in some instances, a pre-determined amount of time – the manufacturer of the defective consumer good must remedy the situation.
Reasonable Number Of Attempts
A “reasonable number” can be tricky to quantify. A reasonable effort generally refers to appropriate and rational steps that would be expected in similar or usual circumstances. But note, a consumer is required to bring the defective product to an in-state repair facility before the expiration of an express warranty period – unless delivery is deemed unreasonable. Reasonability, with regard to lemon law, is highly contingent on the number of attempts, the type and severity of the vehicle’s defect, and its potential to cause harm or damage.
Proof Required for the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act
Vehicles must satisfy specific criteria to be eligible for the protections offered by the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. First, this Lemon Law statute can only be applied in those instances if the vehicle was purchased within the state of California.
To start a lawsuit under the Song-Beverly Act, the vehicle in question must have a substantial defect – that is, an issue or problem that impacts or impairs its safe use or value. A substantial defect is generally defined as a failure to repair the issue at hand after four attempts.
However, if the nonconformity or issue is dangerous and could cause injury to the driver (or anyone else in the car or on the road) – only two attempts are required to meet the substantial defect’s legal definition.
In addition, the criteria to meet the Lemon Law’s substantial defect definition may also be satisfied if the motor vehicle was out of service and being repaired for 30+ days and was not remedied.
Note, however, that the defect or nonconformity in question must still be one that would be covered under the original warranty. And, California’s Statute of Limitations with regard to the Lemon Law is a maximum of four years. This means that a lawsuit using grounds established by the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act must be filed with the appropriate jurisdiction within this legally-defined time frame. The four-year clock begins ticking from the date the individual learns of the defect.
Remedies and Damages Available under the Song-Beverly Act
The Lemon Law in California offers a consumer two remedies. If the motor vehicle is judged to be a lemon, the consumer may choose to have their vehicle repurchased or receive a
replacement vehicle. Consumers who choose a replacement are eligible to receive a vehicle that is substantially identical to the one being replaced.
Choosing the Vehicle Repurchase Option
If the buying consumer chooses a refund or reimbursement, the total amount to be refunded will include actual damages. This calculation typically includes –
- The Purchase price of the vehicle. This also includes transportation costs and options installed by the manufacturer.
- The buyer’s original down payment at purchase.
- The sales tax paid at purchase – unless the sales tax was prorated and included within monthly payments.
- The monthly car payments – if there were payments made (for either a new or used motor vehicle), those payments will also be included in the reimbursement. Prepayment penalties or early termination fees are refunded, if applicable.
- License & Registration Fees – unless the license and registration fees were prorated and included within monthly payments.
- Incidental & Consequential Damages – The Song-Beverly Act, although lacking specificity in this regard, refers to incidental and consequential damages as reasonable towing, repair, car service, taxi fees, and even rental car expenses. Essentially incidental and consequential damages reimburse the consumer for expenses out-of-pocket incurred because of the automobile’s defect and inability to perform.
- Any outstanding debt on the vehicle – this will not include unpaid finance charges.
- Attorney’s fees – if an attorney represents you, attorneys’ fees will be included.
The above-noted formula allows the manufacturer to deduct from the total damages the use of the vehicle as reflected by the mileage driven – up until the problem was first reported. This is known as a deduction or fees for service.
The mileage deduction with regard to Lemon Law is best understood using an example.
Example – Dave purchased a car for $20,000. Dave first notified the dealer that the problem existed when the vehicle had 6,000 miles on its odometer. Despite the best efforts, the defect cannot be repaired.
How much will be deducted from the total reimbursement due to Dave’s use of the vehicle up to that point?
The legal formula is quite simple if you know that the car’s life expectancy is 120,000 miles.
- Step #1 – Determine the percentage of miles driven – 6,000/120,000 = .05 or 5% of total expected miles.
- Step #2 – Apply that percentage of use to the original cost of the vehicle – $20,000 * 5% = $1,000. This $1,000 represents the wear and tear (or use) of the vehicle by Dave. It will be deducted from the total damages before reimbursement.
Note that there are no damages eligible to be awarded for emotional pain/suffering or lost wages.
However, the Song-Beverly Act does provide for the recovery of civil penalties should the manufacturer willfully (in other words, knew of the legal obligation and proactively avoided compliance) violate the provisions of this California Statute. Civil penalties may be awarded up to twice the actual damages in the case.
The Tanner Consumer Protection Act (TCP) (Cal. Civ. Code, §§ 1793.22)
The Tanner Consumer Protection Act, in the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act, establishes explicitly the guidelines that must be met for a new vehicle to qualify as a lemon.
The Tanner Consumer Protection Act also establishes a car as a lemon if the defect that cannot be repaired arose within 18 months of the vehicle’s delivery — or the first 18,000 miles on the odometer – whichever came first.
The Tanner Consumer Protection Act offers consumers a way to conclusively prove that a newly leased or purchased vehicle is a lemon. The provisions provided for in the Tanner Consumer Protection Act are limited explicitly to new motor vehicles as follows until the first of these events –
- 18 months have passed since the purchase or lease inception.
- 18,000 miles are registered on the odometer. (§§ 1793.22 (a)
The TCP grants specific presumptions in determining if a motor vehicle is a lemon –
- The dealer made two or more repair attempts regarding the same defect and said the defect is likely to result in a severe injury or death if it is continued to be driven with the defect.
- The dealer made four or more attempts to repair the same performance defect,
- Since the buyer or lessee took delivery, the vehicle in question has been undrivable and out of service for a minimum of 30 aggregate calendar days (an aggregate of all days).
Note, just because the vehicle in question fails to meet the Tanner Act’s presumptive requirements – it does not mean the vehicle is not a lemon.
Certified-Preowned Cars Are Covered Under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act if Still Under Warranty.
Used cars may have one of two types of warranties. A warranty that is offered by the manufacturer (generally last from three to five years). There may be another warranty that may be provided by the dealer, which varies greatly and is unrelated to this statute.
Cars older than five years or bought from a private seller are likely not covered by the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act.
When Is a Used Car a Lemon?
As a reminder, the requirements for a new car – as noted above, include –
- The problems weren’t from misuse or abuse.
- The manufacturer has attempted to repair non-fatal defects at least four times
- The manufacturer has attempted to repair potentially fatal defects at least flaws twice.
- 18 months have passed since the purchase or lease inception.
- 18,000 miles are registered on the odometer. (§§ 1793.22 (a))
- The vehicle has been unusable and in the repair shop for 30 or more aggregate days.
If the above criteria hold true – even if the vehicle has been sold, the second owner would be covered. For example, if you buy a one-year-old car, this vehicle should be covered under the original manufacturer’s warranty. This would provide the second buyer with six months to identify and record potential defects.
How to Know if a Used Car Qualifies Under Lemon Laws
If you think your car or vehicle may qualify under the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act as a lemon, follow your instinct with appropriate research
Find and review the details within the vehicle’s warranty. Warranties are usually included with the paperwork provided at the time of the purchase. If the defective car is still under warranty, this meets the first qualification under the Song-Beverly Act.
Search online for recalls or other manufacturer notices regarding issues & safety. If the car is out of warranty, it may still fall under a more significant recall from the manufacturer.
Consult With a Lemon Lawyer Regarding The Specifics Of The Car & Defect
The Song-Beverly Act covers certain motor vehicles used for personal, family, and household purposes. An essential provision of the Song-Beverly Act — The Tanner Consumer Protection Act — delineates those circumstances that define when a vehicle can be considered a lemon.
Lemon laws are designed as protection for unsuspecting consumers who purchase consumer goods that are defective in some material way. The defect, which may be resolved using legal remedies, may impact the vehicle’s safe use, value, or ability to perform as intended – if the manufacturer fails to repair the problem in a reasonable timeframe.
If your vehicle or other consumer product meets the definition of a “lemon,” California’s Lemon Law provides for remedies to help make you whole.
The most effective way to determine if the car issue you are facing meets the qualifications of California lemon law is to speak with a qualified attorney with the experience and skill to help with lemon law claims.