While most people associate lemon laws with defective cars, consumer laws can offer you similar protections if you buy a defective appliance, such as a refrigerator. Federal laws govern the language and scope of warranties, while state laws offer varying protection against consumer fraud and sellers of products that do not perform as advertised.
The original lemon laws were enacted to protect car buyers. Under lemon laws, if a car has a defect that is covered under warranty, and the dealership cannot fix the problem after several attempts at repair, the buyer has a right to a replacement car or a refund. Many people also use the term "lemon law" to describe a wide range of consumer protection laws that cover consumer goods, such as refrigerators.
Read More: Are There Lemon Laws for Washers and Dryers?
Consumer Protection Laws
Consumer protection laws vary from state to state, and some laws are more comprehensive than others. These laws usually protect consumers against deceptive advertising, fraud, and give consumers recourse against sellers of defective goods.
All states recognize the "implied warranty" that a product will perform as it is supposed to. For instance, if a retailer sells you a phone, there is an implied warranty that it will ring, dial out and allow you to speak to someone who you have called or who has called you. The length of time for this implied warranty varies between states, and your rights under state law may trump retailer sales policies. For example, if you buy a blender that does not work, and it still doesn't work after a retailer attempts to fix it, state law may give you the right to a refund even if store has a policy against cash refunds. If the retailer refuses to comply with your request for a refund, you may be able to sue them for damages.
If your refrigerator is defective, you should try and resolve the problem with the store that sold it to you. If this doesn't work, contact the manufacturer. Depending on your state's laws, you may be able to sue the store that sold you the product for your costs and other damages. You may also want to contact your state's attorney general's office as well as the Better Business Bureau as both may be willing to intervene on your behalf.
If your state permits items to be sold "as is", with the express statement that the item is not covered under warranty, you have no recourse against the manufacturer or retailer if the item proves to be defective. You should also be aware of actions, such as failing to properly care for and maintain your refrigerator, could void an otherwise valid warranty.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.