August 30 2007 by Ellen Roseman
Lately, I’m hearing complaints about major appliances and automobiles wearing out before their time. (See below).) Often, this happens just after the warranty expires.
What can you do?
–Watch out for problems during the warranty period. Keep a log of all the calls you make to the dealer or manufacturer, the people you speak to and the corrective action taken. You want to show that your issue was reported while the product was under warranty, even if the breakdown occurred later.
–Look for similar complaints, which could indicate a pattern. This gives you ammunition when you approach a manufacturer. Do a Google search and see what comes up.
–Find out if the company has a secret warranty that will help you get action. Of course, no one talks about a secret warranty. They use euphemisms like “goodwill policies” or “owner notification programs.”
–Get an estimate of the repair cost before you start negotiating. You might want to get an estimate from the company’s authorized dealer and another from an independent service outlet. See if the independent will say the problem is factory-related or the result of premature wearing out.
–Send a registered letter to the manufacturer, with a description of what you want and the average repair cost. Give a deadline to respond before going to small claims court, the Better Business Bureau or the media.
–Think about arbitration if you’re having a dispute with a car manufacturer. Check the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP) to see if your car qualifies. This is a quasi-judicial proceeding, so you will need to bring experts with you to testify.
Phil Edmonston, author of the Lemon-Aid car guides, thinks going to small claims court is your best bet for a durability complaint.
No lawyer is required, costs should be minimal (under $100), and a mediation hearing or trial will likely be scheduled in a few months. Most cases are settled for two-thirds to three-quarters of the claim at the mediation stage. A trial and judgment will follow a few months later if the claim isn’t resolved through mediation.
If the dealer offers a partial repair or refund, take it. Then sue for the rest. Remember, if a partial repair has been done under warranty it counts as an admission of responsibility â€” no matter what “goodwill” euphemism is used. Also, the repaired component/body panel should be just as durable as if it were new. Hence, the clock starts ticking again, no matter what the dealer’s repair warranty limit says.