November 7, 2002
Honorable Betty D. Montgomery
Attorney General of Ohio
State Office Tower, 30 E. Broad St.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
Dear Attorney General Montgomery:
The Center for Auto Safety has just completed a study of the lemon law in every state and the District of Columbia and has ranked each state based on the results. Ohio finished 3rd out of 51. With over 100,000 lemons bought back each year, a strong lemon law is vital to consumer protection. States with strong lemon laws force the auto companies to take back their lemons. States with weak lemon laws force consumers to eat their lemons.
The ranking was based on 10 different categories corresponding to fundamental elements of a strong lemon law, with each category worth a maximum of 10 points for a total of 100 points. The categories are:
1. number of repair attempts or days out of service before an automobile was considered a lemon,
2. whether law had a safety lemon provision and how protective it was,
3. the length of the presumption period or coverage of the lemon law,
4. whether law had a garden variety lemon provision to cover multiple different problems,
5. the offset for use of the car when determining a refund price,
6. if the consumer is eligible for a civil penalty or double or treble damages,
7. types of vehicles covered,
8. is there a state run arbitration program,
9. is the consumer compensated for their attorney fees, and
10. whether refund reimburses consumer for all costs of purchasing and owning lemon
Points were deducted for provisions that negated major rights under the lemon law including whether consumer (1) was liable for manufacturer's attorney fees, (2) lost rights under other laws, (3) had to file lemon lawsuit within short time, and (4) had to resort to manufacturer's unfair arbitration program before filing lemon lawsuit.
The biggest weaknesses in Ohio's lemon law are (1) it has a shorter presumption period than most other states with the most common being 24 months/24,000 miles with some going to the length of the express warranty and (2) does not have a state-run arbitration program but forces consumers to go through auto company arbitration programs before they can exert their lemon law rights in court unlike the 17 states which do not require such prior resort. Although Ohio certifies the manufacturers' programs, state run arbitration programs provide fairer and swifter remedies than do the auto company run programs. Ohio could become number one in lemon law protection by setting up a state run arbitration program and lengthening the presumption period. Ohio could also become number one by eliminating prior resort to arbitration so that consumers who have such bad lemons they want to exercise their legal rights immediately to get out of them can do so. Manufacturers know that if they stall, many consumers will give up and buy a new car rather than wait. A good lemon lawyer could get the lemon taken back in 30 days versus the 60-90 days under arbitration programs.
We urge you to review this survey and use your authority to help improve Ohio's lemon law.
Clarence M. Ditlow