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The somewhat sour history of lemon laws

The federal lemon law will be 50 years old in a couple of years. Passed by Congress in 1975, the law, while applying to all products, is best known for cars. Simply put, the seller is mandated to repair a vehicle within a reasonable amount of time.

Lemon origins

The term “Lemon” went beyond referring to the citrus fruit in 1909 when it became slang for a useless item of poor quality. Subsequently, formal “Lemon Laws” became associated with individuals who sell, at best, substandard vehicles.

In 1952, the Uniform Commercial Code started to provide protection to both consumers and sellers of all products, including automobiles. Provisions existed that required refunds to consumers for products considered “non-conforming.” However, it was less than successful when it came to vehicles and their continuing motor vehicle defects.

Protection for vehicle buyers

Lemon laws soon began their storied history starting in the mid-seventies. Countless consumer complaints revolved around defective cars and trucks. Ultimately, the clamor resulted in the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, also known as the Federal Lemon Law.

Connecticut became the first state to pass its own Lemon Laws in 1982. All states soon followed, as did countries around the world.

At long last, laws provided consumers with protection and legal options. Manufacturers have a set window of time to honor their warranties and formally address the vehicle problems. The regulations also have “teeth” that can require entire refunds, with many mandates only allowing one failed attempt to resolve the issue.

After multiple attempts, the car is officially categorized as a “lemon,” with the owner receiving a refund, replacement car, or additional money, depending on the warranty.

Any warranty represents a bond of trust between businesses and consumers. Falling short of those obligations, particularly in the automobile industry, can have severe consequences regarding finances and reputation.