Monday, August 18, 2014

Educating Yourself Before Your Trip to the Dealer with Your Problem Car

Educate Yourself Before Taking Your Car or Truck to the Dealer for Repair
If you have a problem vehicle and need to take it to the dealer for repair, educate yourself beforehand by going online to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) website.  Knowing that there is a trend of consumer complaints for the same problem that you are having with your vehicle, or that there is a known problem with your particular year, make, and model of vehicle, can help make your repair visit to the dealer more effective. 

Find You Car or Truck on the NHTSA Website
To find complaints, recalls, service bulletins, or defect investigations for your year, make, and model of vehicle, go online to the NHTSA website, www.NHTSA.govand click on the “Search for Recalls” tab.  Then enter the year, make, and model of your vehicle.  It’s that easy!  

Search for Complaints, Recalls, Service Bulletins, and Defect Investigations
Once you have enter the year, make, and model of your vehicle, and clicked submit, a tab across the top of the screen will list four items for your vehicle, in the following order: Recalls, Investigations, Complaints, and Service Bulletins.  Each of the four tabs will list a number next to them, identifying the total number of recalls, defect investigations, complaints, and service bulletins for your year, make, and model of vehicle.  Simply click on a tab to read each specific entry.  Often times, there will also be documents associated with the events, such as recalls, which you can view.  Search through the recalls, defect investigations, complaints, and service bulletins, and print out anything that you think may be related to the problem that you are having with your problem vehicle.

Sign Up For Email Notifications of New Recalls
You may also want to sign up for email notifications or alerts, so that you know when new recalls are issued.  You can do this from the main page listing your vehicle’s recalls, defect investigations, complaints, and service bulletins by clicking on the link “Sign-Up for Email Alerts” to the left.  You can get alerts for all makes and models of vehicles, or just your particular year, make and model of vehicle.  This email notification will warn you when new recalls are issued. 

Make Your Own Complaint on the NHTSA Website
To make your own complaint on the NHTSA website, go to and click on the "File a Complaint" tab.  You will be asked to enter the year, make, and model of your vehicle, and the vehicle's Vin number, to describe the problems you are having with the vehicle, and to enter your name and address.  The information that you provide will be entered into the NHTSA consumer complaint database. Your complaint, with the personal identifiers removed, will be listed on the NHTSA database online with other consumer complaints for the same year, make and model of vehicle.  It is important to report the problems that you are having with your vehicle to NHTSA, because these consumer complaints help NHTSA and motor vehicle manufacturers to determine if a safety recall is warranted, and also provide other motorists with valuable information about potential safety problems currently under review.

Take You Vehicle to the Dealer for Repair
Now that you are armed with recall, defect investigation, complaint, and service bulletin information for your year, make, and model of vehicle, and have all relevant recalls, defect investigations, complaints, and service bulletins printed out, take them to the dealer with you when you drop your vehicle off for repair.  Make sure that they note the information on the repair order and that they list all of the complaints that you present the vehicle for, and list them accurately.  If they don’t, then refuse to sign the repair invoice.  Chances are that when you do that, they will revise the repair invoice to accurately describe the problems that you are having with the vehicle.

If the Manufacturer Fails to Live Up to Its Warranty, Contact a Lemon Law Attorney
If the manufacturer fails to live up to its warranty to you by failing to repair the vehicle within a reasonable number of tries or a reasonable amount of time, contact a Lemon Law attorney in your state.  To find a consumer law attorney in your state, you can go to  But act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit in court before your rights expire. 

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 10 Years Running

Friday, August 15, 2014

American Idol for Car Dealers

Have you ever purchased a new or used vehicle and ended up with "extras" that you do not need or want such as "personal assistant", "environmental package", "etch", "key care", "pro-pack", or "credit life"?  If you don't pay close attention, you could be paying thousands of dollars for these "soft add ons" that you simply don't need.  

Unfortunately, this is the direction that a lot of car dealers are going in to make money.  In fact, a car dealer magazine now sponsors F&Idol, a competition between car dealer finance managers nationwide to see who is the best and brightest at selling products for leasing, vehicle service contracts, tire and wheel, key replacement and more.  The competition is scored based on the following categories: (1) transition statements and overall flow, (2) customer rapport and engagement, (3) product disclosures, (4) product knowledge, (5) personal stories and testimonials, and (6) objection handling.  

Car dealer finance managers must submit a video of themselves selling a “soft add on” product before the August 20, 2014 deadline to be considered.  Then, winners will be chosen for each category, awarded $1,000, airfare, and a 2 night stay at Paris Las Vegas.

Category winners will professionally re-shoot their winning entries and the videos will be posted online, where magazine readers can cast their vote on the overall winner. The winner will be announced in the November 2014 magazine issue, and will receive a $2,500 cash prize, along with the coveted industry title "F&Idol".

If you paid good money for “soft add ons” that you had no idea that you were even purchasing until you walked out of the dealership, and need help, contact an attorney who practices in Consumer Law or Auto Fraud in your state.  If you need help in Ohio or Kentucky, click here and let me know about it.  We fight car dealers in Ohio and Kentucky every day and will get right to work fighting that car dealer for you.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 10 Years Running

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Volkswagen of America, Inc. Recalls 150,000 Vehicles Due to Stalling Defect

Volkswagen of America, Inc. has recalled over 150,000 model year 2009-2014 Tiguan vehicles manufactured July 2007 to June 2014.

According to Volkswagen of America, Inc., when using winterized fuel in certain conditions, bubbles may form in the fuel system which could result in the vehicle stalling and increase the risk of a crash.

To see the two (2) documents associated with this recall, click here and scroll down to the accessible PDF files.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration ("NHTSA"), Volkswagen of America, Inc. will notify vehicle owners directly, and its authorized dealers will update the vehicle’s software to increase the fuel pump pressure free of charge.  Owners may also contact Volkswagen of America, Inc. direct at 1-888-327-4236.  

Do you have a 2009-2014 Tiguan that stalled while driving,
has been to an authorized Volkswagen of America, Inc. dealer for repairs under the Volkswagen of America, Inc. warranty, but is still not fixed?  If the vehicle was purchased or repaired in Ohio or Kentucky, then you can call Burdge Law Office on our Toll Free Hotline, 1.888.331.6422, to see if we can help you out of your "lemon" vehicle.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 10 Years Running

Friday, August 8, 2014

ARBITRATION ALERT!: The New Car Dealer Trick that Could Leave Consumers Without Any Remedies

In my practice, I see a good number of arbitration clauses between car dealers and consumers cross my desk.  Until recently, most dealers went out of their way in their arbitration clauses to limit the arbitration costs for the consumer in order to sure that their arbitration clause could stand up in court.  On March 1, 2013, the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) took a step to make sure that arbitrator was affordable to consumers, and changed the Consumer Rules fee schedule to limit a consumer's AAA out of pocket arbitration costs and fees to $200, with the remainder to be paid by the car dealer.  

Well, car dealers must have realized that arbitration can be expensive, too.  Because, in response, I am seeing more an more arbitration clauses where the car dealer attempts to: 
(1) apply the AAA commercial rules to avoid application of the AAA Consumer Rules and the $200 limit;
(2) require multiple arbitrators to avoid application of the AAA Consumer Rules, make arbitration even more expensive, and avoid the $200 limit; and/or 
(3) require the consumer to pay the AAA fees and costs and the dealer’s own fees and costs if they do not win the arbitration.

If an arbitration clause is clearly worded, and the consumer is limited to $200 out of pocket with the AAA, I have no problem advising my clients to proceed with arbitration.  While there are disadvantages to arbitration, there are many advantages, too.  And, I have had a lot of success arbitrating car dealer cases.  The serious problem I have with arbitration clauses, however, is when they make arbitration cost prohibitive to a consumer.  This is because when arbitration is cost prohibitive to a consumer, they effectively have no remedy at all.

Car dealers may think that they are saving money by changing the arbitration costs provisions in their arbitration clauses.  But, I suspect the net result will be just the opposite.  Because, I suspect that more and more consumers will be fighting these arbitration clauses in court, instead of agreeing to arbitrate at the onset.

With even the best case, nothing is ever a 100% guarantee, and when there is a risk that a consumer will be liable for tens of thousands of dollars in arbitration fees and costs and attorneys fees, the doors to both arbitration and court are effectively closed.

So, if you are in the market for a motor vehicle, watch out for an arbitration clause hidden within the sales paperwork.  And, if you see one, tell them you want them to cross it out.  A car dealer isn't going to risk losing a car sale, and 9 times out of 10 the dealer will agree to cross it out.  And, if they won't, consider if the car dealer is one that you really want to be doing business with.

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 10 Years Running

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Arbitration: No Longer A Death Sentence for Consumers

Litigating a case in Court is always the best option, but if you have already signed away your rights to do so in an arbitration clause as part of your purchase of a vehicle, the clause is enforceable, and the courtroom doors are closed, then all hope is NOT lost.  In fact, you may still be able to vindicate your rights in arbitration after all.

Here is a list of the TOP TEN reasons arbitration is no longer a death sentence for many consumers:

1. The arbitration process is often shorter than the court process.

When you file a lawsuit, especially if it is in a large county, the Court’s docket is often so busy that your trial date will be set more than a year into the future.  With arbitration, the scheduling is based upon just three calendars– the arbitrator’s, your attorney’s, and the car dealer’s attorney’s.  And, since depositions are not normally taken by either side in arbitration cases, and discovery is much more limited, the length of time necessary for both sides to get ready for an arbitration is much less than the time necessary if the same case were in Court.  As a result, the arbitration hearing is usually set within months of filing.

2. The cost to arbitrate a case is often less for the consumer than the cost to litigate the case in court.
Depending on the fee agreement that you have with your attorney, and the arbitration agreement that you have with the dealer, in most cases the cost to arbitrate is often less than the cost to litigate the case in court.  There are many reasons for this.  For instance, if your case is arbitrated with the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), and there is no fee shifting clause in the arbitration agreement, then the Consumer Rules of the AAA limit your out of pocket payment to the AAA to $200.  This is less than it costs to file a lawsuit in Court.  Additionally, since discovery is more limited and depositions are not normally taken, the court reporter and deposition transcript costs are eliminated.  Finally, since witnesses are often permitted to testify by phone, the time and travel costs normally paid to witnesses subpoenaed to testify at trial are eliminated.  Finally, since expert witnesses can sometimes testify by phone and arbitrators will work around their schedules, the ultimate bill from an expert is likely to be much less if he or she is testifying at an arbitration hearing as opposed to testifying in trial, where an expert may sit waiting to testify at trial for hours.  However, arbitration clauses that attempt to shift the expenses to the consumer are becoming more and more popular, so look carefully at your arbitration agreement!  

3. The arbitration costs due from the dealer to the arbitration panel early on often sparks settlement negotiations.
If your case is arbitrated through the AAA, there is a couple thousand dollar arbitration fee due from the car dealer to the AAA early on in the case.  This often sparks settlement talks with the smarter car dealers, and can help to get a case settled early on.  There is no similar process in the Court system to spark settlement talks.

4. Hearsay is often admissible at the arbitration hearing, but would not be admissible in court.
The rules of evidence that keep hearsay from being admissible in Court are not normally applied at an arbitration hearing, or are at least less strictly applied.  The decision is left up to the arbitrator whether or not to follow the rules of evidence.  However, most consider it.  This typically favors the consumer because the consumer is the one that is usually trying to get hearsay evidence in at the arbitration hearing, and not the car dealer.

5. Witnesses are often permitted to testify by telephone.
Witnesses are often permitted to testify by phone.  This is helpful when you have a vehicle that has a title chain that spans all over the United States.  And, with wrecked car cases, this happens all to often.  What this means is witnesses that you normally could not subpoena or afford to pay to testify at trial in Court may be willing to pick up a phone and testify at an arbitration hearing from the convenience of their own home or office in their own state.

6. The process is much less intimidating for the consumer.
Many consumers are intimidated by the thought of walking into a courtroom, being before a judge, and having a jury of their peers sit and listen and decide their case.  An arbitration is much less formal, is typically held at a conference table in a medium sized conference room, and is closed to the public.  This venue is much less intimidating to the typical consumer.

7. There are procedures to remove the arbitrator if you have proof that the arbitrator may be biased.
Proof of bias, or possible bias, can often be hard to come by.  But if you have it, there are procedures with the AAA to remove an arbitrator from your case.  But you need to act quickly, because there are deadlines to do so.

8. All tendered evidence is typically considered by the arbitrator, even if the evidence might not be admissible in Court.
This is often helpful where records custodians would normally be necessary in Court.  Often, the necessity of a records witness is unnecessary because an arbitrator will often be willing to consider evidence without the need to call a records witness.  

9. An arbitration award can be confirmed in Court and is just as enforceable as a judgment.
The Ohio Arbitration Act allows for the confirmation of an arbitration decision in the Common Pleas Court.  Once the arbitration decision is confirmed, it is just as collectible as if it had been a court judgment.  Many states have similar laws, so make sure you know what your state's law is in the event that you win the arbitration, but the car dealer doesn't pay the judgment.

10. Quick access to the arbitrator on important issues.
While motions filed in Court are often pending for months, due to busy Court dockets an arbitrator usually only has one case at a time, so issues are decided quickly and telephone hearings can be set up in just days to resolve issues that require a hearing.

Have a case against a car dealer that needs to be arbitrated in Ohio or Kentucky?  You can call Burdge Law Office on our Toll Free Hotline, 1.888.331.6422, to see if we can help you arbitrate your case.  

Beth Wells
Helping Consumers Get Rid of Lemons, 10 Years Running