Still hoping for a stronger lemon law – Philippine Star

It’s not certified as an urgent bill, so consumers will not be seeing any urgent action on the proposed lemon act that seeks to provide some measure of protection to individuals who have purchased brand new vehicles. But we can always hope it becomes a law within the decade.

In the Lower House version that had been passed on final reading last month, vehicles that are bought but found to be defective (thus, establishing them as lemons) may be replaced with a similar or comparable motor vehicle or refunded the purchase price plus collateral charges.

As most proposed laws in the country, this will go through the legislative cycle and calendar where the various versions in the Lower and Upper Houses will be approved by their respective constituents, and finally pass through more debates by a joint committee of both houses.

What the Lower House has approved, thus, may turn out to be a much-mangled version of what the law will eventually become. This will depend on a lot of things, including how strongly the parties involved (consumers and vehicle industry stakeholders) will react.

Definitely second hand purchases excluded

Nevertheless, there are some strong clues about the final version. The most glaring, based on the approved bill that passed on final reading by the Lower House, is the fact that there’s going to be a very strong chance that second hand vehicle purchases will be excluded from a future law.

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This perhaps explains why the bill has gone through some relatively painless discussions, or rather opposition, from the phalanx of vehicle manufacturers, distributors, authorized dealers and retailers. If the bill had attempted to include second-bought vehicles, this may still be in its infancy stages.

In the US, coverage and inclusion of second hand vehicles varies by state. But in Canada, the law includes new and used, owned and leased vehicles that are from the current model year and up to an additional four model years.

There is a strong basis for the inclusion of second-bought vehicles, and this is mainly because of the expressed manufacturers’ warranty that now normally is good for three years (although there are now five-year warranties that are being issued already).

Therefore, any mechanical defects within the maturity of warranty should technically be honored regardless of whether the current owner is the original or the second buyer. Or in this regard, even the third or fourth buyer.

There was an earlier bill filed in the Senate that included even second hand vehicles. But most probably, to speed up the process of “consumer protection,” this provision will be dropped in the final version. After all, the approved Lower House version explicitly confines its scope to “strengthening consumer protection in the purchase of brand new motor vehicles.”

Still partial to the selling party

Still, the proposed law is still more partial to the party that sold the car. First off, the scope of coverage could be as few as one percent of new cars sold a year. But I guess consumers should be thankful that our lawmakers are still doing something to protect buyers of brand new vehicles who have paid hard-earned cash for their dream ride.

After four tries, the irritated and exasperated owner of the defective vehicle may then file for proceedings that will either give him a replacement unit or his money. The latter recourse is highly unlikely since the proposed law leaves this decision to the motor vehicle distributor’s prerogative.

The proposed law also confines validity to the first 12 months from the date of delivery or up to 20,000 kilometers of mileage. But the tougher ruling is that the complaining party should have checked in the vehicle for succeeding repairs on the same complaint within 30 days from the release following the last repair attempt.

Therefore, if the same defect appears after one month from the last check in for servicing of the complaint, the first occurrence is technically no longer counted. This is tough, tough love for the poor consumer.

Clearly, the proposed law in its current version leaves much to be desired if we are serious about invoking consumer protection. The Philippines has a very robust second hand or used-car market, and this is where new laws are deemed crucial.

Tips when buying second hand vehicles

In the absence of any bill aimed at protecting those buying used cars, here are some tips that could come in handy. After all, without a law protecting those who have bought pre-owned lemons, the new owner can find himself stuck with a big headache, or even risk his own and his passengers’ safety.

Get the vehicle’s history. In the Philippines, this is a big challenge, and here is an area that should be covered by consumer protection laws. Usually, getting to know the existing owner is a good way. Ask for records of repairs and maintenance; if there’s none, there could be something being hidden from your view. So beware.

The maintenance record is a good indication of how the current owner has been maintaining his car. It’s likely to tell you if you have to change the oil and oil filter, the brake pedals, tires, and other parts that are normally due for changing depending on how old the vehicle is. Factor these in on the negotiating price.

Bring a good mechanic. A mechanic that you can trust will be able to tell you the state of brakes, tires, radiator, or exhaust of the vehicle you’re buying. Insist on getting the vehicle lifted for a more thorough inspection. Be on the lookout for underbody damages.

A good mechanic will be able to spot recent paint jobs that try to hide newly-repaired dents. Or damage to engine parts if the vehicle has been submerged in flood waters.

Bring the mechanic along for a test drive. Test the vehicle on up and down inclines, in varying speeds, rounding curves, on braking and acceleration.

Lastly, size up the current owner (if you’re not buying from used-car dealers). A racing enthusiast may have driven the car for sale through some endurance tests, and this is a factor for additional discounts. A car owned by an old lady may not have been ideally “stretched,” and would have its peculiar set of problems.

Remember money isn’t the only consideration when buying a new or second-hand vehicle; safety comes first.

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Still hoping for a stronger lemon law – Philippine Star

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