Published 02 July 2018, The Daily Tribune

For every person, buying a brand-new car is a dream come true. However, that dream can turn into a nightmare if the buyer discovers that his fancied car is defective. If that happens, what are his remedies?

Republic Act 10642, otherwise known as the “Philippine Lemon Law,” outlines remedies for a consumer who purchased a brand new motor vehicle that does not conform to the standards of the manufacturer or distributor.

As defined by law, a consumer refers to any person, natural or juridical, who purchases a brand new motor vehicle either by cash or credit from an authorized distributor, dealer or retailer in the Philippines.

The “Lemon Law Rights” of a consumer must be availed of within the period ending 12 months after the date of the original delivery of a brand-new motor vehicle or the first 20,000 kilometers of operation after such delivery, whichever comes first.

Within this period, the consumer can report any non-conformity to the standards and specifications of the manufacturer, authorized distributor, authorized dealer or retailer and pursue any right under the said law.

It is understood there is non-conformity if the brand-new motor vehicle has defect or condition that substantially impairs its use, value or safety, which prevents it from conforming to the manufacturer’s or distributor’s standards or specifications, and which cannot be repaired.

However, the following causes of non-conformity are excluded from the coverage of the law: (a) Non-compliance by the consumer with the obligations under the warranty; (b) Modifications not authorized by the manufacturer, distributor, authorized dealer or retailer; (c) Abuse or neglect of the brand new motor vehicle, and (d) Damage to the vehicle due to accident or force majeure.

At any time within the Lemon Law Rights period, and after at least four separate repair attempts by the same manufacturer, distributor, authorized dealer or retailer for the same complaint, and the non-conformity issue remains unresolved, the consumer may invoke his rights under the law. The repair may include replacement of parts components or assemblies.

Before a consumer may avail himself of the statutory remedies, he shall, in writing, notify the manufacturer, distributor, authorized dealer or retailer of the unresolved complaint, and his intention to invoke his legal rights within the Lemon Law prescriptive period.

After complying with the notice requirement, the consumer shall bring the vehicle to the manufacturer, distributor, authorized dealer or retailer from where the vehicle was purchased for a final attempt to address the complaint of the consumer to his satisfaction.

In case the non-conformity issue remains unresolved despite the manufacturer’s, distributor’s, authorized dealer’s or retailer’s efforts to repair the vehicle, pursuant to the consumer’s availment of his Lemon Law rights, the consumer may file a complaint before the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Interestingly, the law imposes on the manufacturer, distributor or authorized dealer the obligation to give the consumer a reasonable transportation allowance. As for the amount of the allowance, the standard is the air-conditioned taxi fare from the consumer’s residence to his regular workplace or destination and vice versa. (There was no Uber or Grab service yet at that time.) Any disagreement on this matter shall be resolved by the DTI.

Once the case reaches the DTI, the dispute will go through the following stages: (a) mediation, (b) arbitration and (c) adjudication.

Clearly, the law provides sufficient means to protect a consumer from any defects in his or her newly purchased vehicle. Nonetheless, the consumer must be vigilant because the law itself provides a limitation as to when the Lemon Law Rights may be availed of.

As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever. Not even your Lemon Law Rights.

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