Lemon laws, or consumer protection laws, vary by state. Many of them protect buyers of appliances, just as lemon laws protect people who buy a "lemon" car. Typically, appliances are covered in much the same way; if there are repeated repairs or if the same defect needs repairing multiple times while the warranty is in effect, the manufacturer is obligated to replace the appliance or refund the purchase price.
What constitutes a "lemon" varies from one state's statutes to the next. Individual state's lemon laws are posted on the Internet and are available through most law offices and city or county courthouses. Typically, an appliance--from a freezer to a toaster oven--that requires repeated repairs, especially for the same defect, are covered. Owners should check the warranty information for the duration of the appliance's guarantee and for the manufacturer's contact information. They should also keep records and receipts from repairs. Contacting the manufacturer's consumer service department with the information is sometimes enough to get the appliance replaced or the money refunded, including the money spent on repairs. Attorneys who specialize in lemon laws can step in if those efforts fail and take the matter to court.
Going to Court
Some states, such as Maine, have arbitration boards which handle lemon law claims. In most states, however, the matter will be referred to a court. Attorneys specialize in lemon law disputes may sue to have the appliance replaced or the purchase price refunded, along with the cost of repairs, court costs and attorney fees. If an appliance is not covered by state lemon laws, redress might be found by pursuing fraud claims.
Keeping track of the paperwork makes it easier to pursue a complaint via a state's lemon laws. Having records of the purchase, the warranty, any service contract and the repairs can help prove the case. Often, repairs or parts are also guaranteed, not just the appliance. Some warranties state that if the appliance is repaired more than a certain number of times within a specified time period it is considered defective and the manufacturer will replace it.
Each state has its own statutes regarding "lemons." For example, in California the consumer is first encouraged to seek a solution from the seller or manufacturer. When the manufacturer does not honor the warranty, the California lemon law for appliances, essentially a consumer warranty act, lets the buyer seek compensation through the court. The law forces the manufacturer or seller to either reimburse the buyer for the cost of the appliance and the repairs or to replace the appliance with a similar model.
Jean Rabe has worked in journalism since 1979, serving as a reporter, bureau chief and magazine editor. She has written 27 novels, including "The Finest Creation" and "The Finest Challenge," while her true-crime book, "When the Husband is the Suspect," was written with F. Lee Bailey. Rabe has a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northern Illinois University.