Thursday

Why BBB Lemon Law Arbitration Doesn't Work

Every state has a Lemon Law (and Ohio's Lemon Law is one of the strongest) that can protect consumers but many manufacturers have nice close relationship with the BBB to arbitrate consumer Lemon Law disputes for them. Problem is, the BBB encourages the consumer to negotiate with the manufacturer and not go thru the BBB arbitration process at all, even when the papers have been filled out and are sitting on the BBB's desk!

The result? A merry go round, where the manufacturer tries to nickel and dime you into taking some money and keeping your car and, if you don't take it, when you file for the BBB they encourage you to get back on the merry go round and let the manufacturer take another crack at negotiating with you again. (One BBB website even pushes "Before initiating a case, parties are encouraged to contact the BBB mediation...")

After a while, many consumers just take the money. That's what Geri Lynn Maples (of Middletown, Ohio) did and now she regrets it. Her situation is a good example of why arbitration is like playing cards with a stacked deck.

She filed for BBB arbitration and ended up taking GM's offer money for 2 car payments. What she didn't realize? Taking the money was a "settlement" of her Lemon Law rights. So now her car is still not running right, her Lemon Law rights are gone, and GM (which saved a bundle by talking Maples into taking the money) can't be made to buy back Maples' lemon Chevrolet Cobalt, even though it's been in the dealer's repair shop over 20 times for numerous repairs. You can watch the tv news piece on Maples and her lemon Chevy by clicking here.

Moral of the story? DON'T TAKE THE MONEY! Otherwise, you'll be stuck with your lemon, not fixed, and the strongest of your legal rights gone down the drain. You can still have other legal rights, of course, but they aren't the easiest way to get where you want to be, which is rid of your lemon and your money back.

What makes it ironic (and more than a little disgusting) is that Maples' husband served in Iraq and they bought American because, like most people, they wanted to support fellow Americans working in American car factories. The problem isn't the people working in the factories --- it's the corporation that refuses to honor its obligations under the law in the first place.

With that sort of treatment, Maples is probably joining others who say BBB really should stand for Buyer Better Beware! Check out our FAQ's to get some answers about arbitration (and more) before you find yourself wasting your time and your money with the BBB.