BBB and the PA Lemon Law
The Pennsylvania Lemon Law is a law that defines the rights and remedies that you have if you purchase a new vehicle that becomes defective. The PA Lemon Law sets forth that you are entitled to a free replacement vehicle or a full refund of the purchase price if your vehicle exhibits defects which substantially impair the use, value or safety of the vehicle. If the manufacturer cannot repair the vehicle after a reasonable number of attempts, the vehicle is deemed a lemon.
Unfortunately, while you are entitled to one of the aforesaid remedies, vehicle manufacturers rarely just voluntarily buy back your vehicle under the law, even if it meets the established criteria of the Lemon Law. In that instance, you will have to initiate a lemon law claim. Under the law, you must first resort to the manufacturer's informal dispute resolution program, if they maintain one, prior to filing a lemon law lawsuit.
This is where the Better Business Bureau comes in. In Pennsylvania, the Better Business Bureau runs the informal dispute resolution program for many of the major automobile manufacturers. The BBB runs the dispute resolution program for Acura, Audi, Ford, GM, Hyundai, Infiniti, Isuzu, Kia, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, Nissan, Saab, Saturn and Volkswagen.
How does the BBB program work? Its very simple and is merely a format for exchanging information, then having a neutral arbitrator review the facts and making a decision. Our office files several of these claims each week, so it has become second nature here, but in a nutshell: The first thing is to initiate a claim with the BBB. This can be done by filling out their online complaint form. You will need to provide various types of information here, including the standard contact info for yourself. You will also have to provide the make, model and year of the vehicle, along with the VIN. Next, you will provide a list of and an explanation of the vehicle's defects and repair attempts. After that, you will want to forward copies of all of your vehicle's relevant documentation (purchase agreement, financing agreement, repair orders, etc…) to the BBB. You will next want to submit a written narrative of the problems with the vehicle and why you believe the vehicle is a Lemon. This information will be passed along to the manufacturer, who will formulate a response. After the response is received, the BBB Arbitrator will wish to inspect the vehicle, perhaps taking it for a test drive. He/She will render a decision within a matter of days. The entire process is supposed to take 40 days from start to finish.
It is important to know that the Arbitrator's decision is binding upon the manufacturer, but IS NOT binding on you. What that means is that you have the right to proceed with a lawsuit if you don't like the Arbitrator's decision, but the manufacturer does not have that same right.
On a separate but related note, the BBB runs the informal dispute resolution program for many manufacturers in many states. Check with you're an experienced Lemon Law Attorney in your state to see if you must participate in this program prior to filing a lawsuit.