Help, I’ve got a lemon

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 — 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.

Author: Ellen Roseman

Consumer advocate and personal finance author and instructor.

17 thoughts on “Help, I’ve got a lemon”

  1. In September 2005, on the strength of a friend’s recommendation, I purchased a Dell Inspiron 2200 wireless notebook. I had never bought a Dell before, had only bought Compaq products and had never had problems with my Compaq. Besides could my friend really be wrong? After all she was an avid Dell consumer.

    From various people, I had heard Dell had a good service support technician department. Based on this, I opted for only the one-year warranty that was included. After all, Dell Canada had a great reputation and certainly would stand behind their products.

    Approximately 2 months ago, I noticed the LCD screen on my notebook had colored vertical lines running up and down the screen and approximately 1/3 of the right hand side of the screen was blank. I called Dell to get the problem fixed but sorry my warranty had expired and Dell wouldn’t do anything about it, even though they acknowledged the defective LCD screens.

    Two weeks ago, along with the vertical lines, I noticed the bottom half of my screen was blank. I couldnt see a thing. This time I thought I am not going to give up, expired warranty or not, this was a defective LCD screen and if I had the problem, who else had the same problem. I went online and found that several other Dell Inspiron 2200 users had the same LCD defect I did and their warranties had expired as well and they were in the same boat.

    Through these blogs, I obtained the email address for a Dell executive. I wasn’t sure where she was, just that she worked for Dell. I had nothing to lose at this point so I emailed her and almost immediately I got a response back. Yes she acknowledged, my laptop was out of warranty but to make this a better experience for me she was willing to exchange my laptop for a working one and would arrange it. Boy you should have seen my fingers fly over the keyboard keys to respond. However, that was short lived once the Dell Executive found out I was in Canada. Turns out she was in the US and had no jurisdiction over Canadian customers. I wish she had.

    She encouraged me to contact Dell Canada and if I spoke to a manager or executive they would help me. I linked into and the website she sent me. Dell said you were supposed to get a response in 24-48 business hrs. That was 2 weeks ago I am still waiting. I sent them 4 emails, but not one was responded to.

    I found an article online about the President of Dell Canada, so I emailed him. Yes my warranty has expired, but Dell knows their LCD screens are defective (this was confirmed by all 4 Dell techs and customer support people I spoke to and other Dell executives through email). My case was delegated down to an executive and I received an email saying sorry my LCD screen is defective, but the warranty has expired and Dell cannot absorb the cost of fixing the LCD screens. However, if I cough up $500, they would be glad to fix it for me.

    In another email, I was reminded that Dell has such a great tech support team and that they would be happy to fix my defective Dell LCD screen at my expense and while I am at it why don’t I purchase their extended 4 year warranty as they would have done the work. In fact, they couldnt understand why I was happy with the 1 year warranty and didn’t buy the 4 year warranty.

    All I want is for Dell Canada to fix my LCD screen or exchange my laptop for a compatible working one like Dell US was going to do. I really don’t think I am asking too much from a company that knows the LCD screens on some notebooks are defective, but because the warranty has expired they have a cushion to fall back on. In fact, I was advised that my particular LCD screen, which is 14.1 inches, was actually outsourced. So although Dell puts their good name on the bottom line they didn’t make it. All the more reason not to stand behind their products.

  2. Here’s an update on my small claims court case against Nissan Canada for a catalytic converter problem.

    Last Thursday at noon, I submitted my claim to the Newmarket courthouse. Shortly after that, I delivered the summons to the Nissan dealership and the next day around 1 pm, I dropped off the summons to Nissan Canada.

    Around 3pm that day, I got a call from the dealership. The Service Manager told me that Nissan had changed its position on my request and that he had a new engine in a crate waiting to be installed in my Altima as soon as we could coordinate the work next week. We agreed we would chat Monday on the logistics for getting the new engine and catalytic converter installed next week.

    Ellen, without your intial advice and support, plus Phil Edmonston’s in;put, I doubt I would have been so successful. My sincere gratitude.

    When the dealer’s Service Manager called, he was surprised I had not yet been contacted by Nissan Canada. Although they likely will not offer to compensate me for the diagnostic cost, nor my time and hardship, I think at this time I should be satisfied with the new engine and converter.

    Once this is behind me, I may look into getting a warranty paint job for my 2001 Pontiac Montana van, where the paint undercoat was clearly inferior — given the flaking I am living with on the hood and the hatch door. You’ve created a monster! Thank you both for being “on my side.”

  3. I bought a Dell Inspiron 6000 exactly two years ago with an extended warranty called “Complete Coverage.” I was told by the person on the phone that it would cover everything.

    My first battery went right at 12 months and they sent me a replacement.

    The second battery went at 24 months and they told me that they would not cover it, since everything but the battery was covered for 36 months.

    I had the tech support rep go with me on Dell’s website, just like a consumer would, and he spent 14 minutes trying to find all of the details on how the warranty works and could not find them.

    Eventually, I ended up on the phone with the head supervisor of Customer Care and was basically told “too bad.”

    I asked for the head office phone number and was told I’d have to write a letter and that there was no phone number.

    Instead, I Googled Dell Media Relations and called the company. I explained that I was going to the media if I didn’t get a new battery.

    If they wanted to call their warranty Complete Coverage, then it should cover everything.

    If they called it Almost Complete Coverage, then surely they would sell fewer of them.

    Things got fixed very quickly and my new battery is on its way.

    The whole process took 3 hours from start to finish.

  4. We own a 2002 Nissan Altima (purchased at Autoway Nissan, Clearwater, FL in 2002) and have experienced the same mechanical failure as many who have posted to this and many other sites. With 100,300 miles on the vehicle we have just learned the catalytic converter has disintegrated and metal parts are now throughout the engine. As a result we are required to have a new engine installed or walk away from a 5 year old car that, other than this defect, is in excellent condition. Upon speaking to Autoway Nissan we were informed since the car has exceeded the 8 years or 80,000 mile warranty on the catalytic converter Nissan would not cover the cost of repairs.

    It is enlightening and concerning to read many accounts of the same mechanical failure. What can we do as consumers to have our rights protected? It is apparent Nissan has a defective part on at least 2002 / 2003 Altima. Any advise us on how to we as consumers can get Nissan to take ownership of a failed device.

  5. Is there any update on Nissan’s refusal in the US to work with consumers on the 2002 and 2003 issues with catalytic converters and engine failure ?

    We have just experienced the same issue with our car and have the same information from the dealer.

    Sorry $4,200 and no guarantee that the new catalytic converter will not fail either.

  6. Is anyone willing to start some sort of petition against Nissan regarding the problems with the 2.5 Altima engine?

    I’m taking them to small claims court in Atlanta, so if anyone wants to help me out, I’d be beyond grateful.

    Oh, and mine was $6,500 total. New Cat, new Pre-Cat, new engine. Joy.

    What a bunch of corrupt liars Nissan America is.

  7. I purchased a 42-in LG tv on March 13, 2009. Two days ago while I was getting the kids on the bus, I heard a POP.

    Didn’t think anything about it at first, maybe one of the kids dropped a book bag, but when I turned on the TV— nothing.

    I called LG and they were of no help at all!!! I called where I purchased it and they said that they have already fixed over 5 this week alone. It was most likely the power supply and would cost about $300.

    I paid over $1,000 for this tv that didn’t even last 3 years. A new one is only $568 at Wal-mart.

    What is wrong with this world when some of us work hard for our money and we have a bunch of DUMB ASSES working at the factories making us bad products?
    At least, they have job security.

  8. I will never buy a LG again. I’m better off to go to the Salvation Army and purchase a used tube tv of $30, and the money I spend there helps our comunity.

    If I only get a year out of it, I only lost $30 instead of the $300 they want to repair out 2 year old tv that may only last a year

  9. Hi Phil edmonston, can you elaborate on your quote:

    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 — 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.

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