Tuesday

Is Your Car Manufacturer Driven to Safety or Merely Driving You Nuts?

There seems to have been a lot of recalls lately, which has to make you wonder if the car manufacturers are being pushed to recall cars by a concern for safety or a real fear of federal investigations and a public relations disaster.

One thing we know is that the Recall Record has been broken, with more recalls so far this year than in any single entire year since records started being kept. Good grief, are they making them that badly?

Are they being driven to safety by a desire to fix defective vehicles or or are they just driving you nuts by ignoring your lemon while admitting to millions of defective vehicles in other owners' hands?

General Motors announced another 3 million plus vehicles recalled June 16, 2014. Chrysler announced it was recalling Freightliner Cascadia trucks in June too. In June Forest River recalled their 2014 XLR travel trailers. Even BMW recalled a bunch of their motorcycles in June.

Is it just a case of summertime recall blues?

Frankly, with the huge cost of performing recalls, they don't happen for no reason at all. GM already has projected a multi-billion dollar cost for its recalls this year.

It may be that the non-GM companies are doing their recalls now simply because GM is in the news so much with its recall notices that anyone else has a good chance of not having their recalls publicized much right now. It may also be that they have learned "the GM lesson" about hiding 57 cent repairs and getting caught.
Photo from Consumer Reports

For just a few pennies more than a postage stamp, GM could have fixed those ignition switches. But General Motors decided to put the lives of their customers at serious risk and keep it a secret. And when one person sued them over the defect GM already knew existed, GM made them keep their settlement a secret and keep secret the evidence that was uncovered in their lawsuit too. So the next person who died in a GM car from the same defect? They never even knew.

GM put millions of dangerously defective cars on the road and at least 13 people died while they covered it up. Inside G.M., the nation’s largest automaker, some of the 13 victims name appeared on charts and graphs with a date and a single word: “fatal.”

GM got caught and now they are the poster child for big corporate greed that picks profits over the lives of its customers. And they would have gotten away with it entirely but for the media investigations that finally brought their secret into the light. And the Court cases that finally came to light.

For over a decade General Motors used secret agreements to hide the truth about their secret ignition switch settlements. Meanwhile more people were injured or died and far more drivers were frightened when they experienced it too but managed to live through it.

For a decade, GM made its profits and kept the truth silent with its secret settlements. And it was all perfectly legal. You can read how they abused the legal system to keep their customers from knowing about their defects - just click here. Heck, you can read about it in today's USA Today editorial too.

There's a way that maybe you can stop the next big car company from hiding the truth. There's a way that maybe you can force them to stop keeping secrets. It's a change in the law that is now pending in Congress that would stop such secret settlements as the type GM used to keep its customers from knowing about the millions of cars affected by its bad ignition switches. It's called the Sunshine in Litigation Act. But it will never become law without your help.

This bill, now pending in Congress, only requires that a Court approve any request to keep secret information "relevant to the protection of
public health or safety" before that kind of information can be kept from the public by a manufacturer who is in Court charged with selling unsafe products. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? You would not think that any sensible person would want companies to be able to hide the defects they know about. But right now they can. And unless you do something about it, the law won't change.


Companies who build safe consumer products don't need to worry about the Sunshine in Litigation Act. Companies who have secrets to hide are the ones who don't want this law passed. Them and their lobbies who pay and contribute millions of dollars to "influence" the halls of Congress.

The men and women of Congress like the donations, of course. But they also have a healthy respect for letters and emails from back home - that's where you are and that's what you can do right now.

It's easy to support the Sunshine in Litigation Act - just click here to send an email to your congressional representatives. Tell them you have a right to know the next time someone values your life at 57 cents. And you want Congress to make sure someone tells you about it.

Without your help, it will be business as usual. And remember, that was exactly what killed those 13 people.

If you've got a lemon that caused an injury, see a personal injury lawyer near you. If you've just got a lemon that you don't want to get injured by, you can call us. Getting rid of lemons is what we do. Everyday.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers get rid of lemons everyday.

Tuesday

Recalls Are Big Headaches for Consumers, but Big Money for Dealers

While engineers continue to crow about cars that are "better designed" than ever, the recalls just keep mounting. It seems like GM is announcing a recall every couple of days.

It's a big headache to consumers. Since 1990, The Detroit Big 3 have recalled about a third of a billion cars and that's a lot of repair work.

In that same time frame, Japanese car makers have recalled just about 100 million and German brands have recalled only about 15 million. If you look at that alone, it appears the Germans build a better car.

But US car dealers aren't getting rich off the German recalls. The Big 3 dealers are though.

We don't want to sound like we are picking on GM, but industry experts predict that GM alone will spend $2 billion just to fix the roughly 16 million cars it has recalled so far this year.

When it comes to making money, GM dealers are smiling all the way to the bank and so are other dealers doing recall work. And the suppliers who build the replacement parts? They are smiling too, of course. It's big business, fixing things that should have been built right in the first place.

According to Automotive News in October 2013, about a third of all recalls have to do with one of only four car systems - the fuel system, the brakes, airbags and seat belts. When you add the power train, it totals almost half of all recalls.

And Monday, June 16, GM added another 3.16 million cars to its totals so far this year. Got a GM car? Don't be surprised if you get a friendly letter from GM in your mail soon too.

If you get a recall, get your car into the dealer right away. If they don't have the parts yet, then ask the service manager if your car is safe to drive. Anything but an unequivocal "yes" should be taken as a big NO. If so, then tell them you want a free loaner car to use until they get it fixed. If you still don't like the answer, then ask to talk to the dealership manager. Then the owner. Then ask for the factory phone number you can call.


The moral is simple. The squeaky wheel still gets the grease, so keep complaining. And make notes of what each person says to you, date and time. This is where Murphy's Law applies.

As sure as you do it, it'll all work out and you won't need it. And as sure as you don't, you will end up wishing you did. And when push comes to shove, let us do the shoving for you.

Burdge Law Office
Getting rid of lemons. It's what we do.

Thursday

Now YOU Can Follow The CIA, Instead of Just Them Following You

Who's Following You?
The CIA is famous for its secret legal briefs to justify eavesdropping and following of all of the rest of us. Well, it turns out that now you can follow them too.
Although burdened with all of the spying work, the CIA found time to open their own Twitter account on June 11. No doubt before doing so they put a team of their crack agents together on what their first tweet should be.
While we can never know the months of research, meetings, group conferences, and thought that went into it, they did come up with an astounding and insightful first tweet, "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet."  Yeah, that took a lot of work.

Knowing who it is though, the real question is - if you "follow" them, will they also "follow" you? Be careful out there.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumer Protect Themselves for Over 25 Years

Wednesday

Arbitration Still Sucks - And it Sucks More Often

Good looks can be deceiving.
In a recent case a consumer complained to us that they had bought a late model Chevrolet Impala that looked and ran great, right up to when it didn't just a few months after they bought it. Then a knocking noise started in the front end, the transmission starting jerking and the tires were cupping. One thing led to another and they found out that it had been in a multi-car accident that was so bad it had to be towed away from the scene.

When you buy a wrecked and poorly repaired car and the selling car dealership hides that fact from you, you probably think you should have the right to make them buy it back and go to Court if they refuse, right? Well, maybe you do and maybe you don't.

This particular new car dealer in Strongsville, Ohio - like many car dealers nowadays - has a little clause printed in their sales contract that says when you buy a car from them, you agree you will never sue them. Buy a car from them and you lose your right to do anything about it in Court. Think you can fight it? Well, think again.

Binding Mandatory Arbitration clauses like that are getting slipped into more and more consumer transactions - very often without the consumer even knowing it. Take breakfast cereal.

Eat cereal and lose your rights?
Did you know that if you bought a General Mills cereal product, say Cheerios or Lucky Charms, etc, or even if you just "liked" them on Facebook, that you were giving up your constitutional right to go to Court if you ever had a dispute with them? Yup. And Heaven help you if you used one of their coupons. True, they recently rewrote their arbitration clause after it became widely reported by the media, by generously saying that just going on Facebook or Twitter would not be covered by the "you can't sue us ever" clause anymore.

But really, folks, if you use a 25 cent coupon and your breakfast cereal turns out to have rat poisen in it, don't you think you should have the right to go to Court over it if you have to?

Little by little, big corporations are taking away your legal rights. It isn't the government that is stripping away your legal rights. And while the nut jobs out there may scream otherwise, it isn't Congress and it isn't the President either. Don't believe it? Check your Direct Tv contract. Your Verizon cell phone contract. Or any of your credit card contracts. You can see a whole list of companies who are doing it to you and read what happened to ordinary people who got nailed by the arbitration hammer at the Public Citizen website.


Binding mandatory arbitration is spreading like a virus and it's attacking you and your rights and you don't even know it.


But back to that Chevy owner. It turns out that the car dealer uses an arbitration clause that says you can never take them to Court over anything at all. So, if someone comes out of the dealership after you with a baseball bat - tough luck. If they lie to you about that car being in perfect condition when really it's a wrecked and badly repaired car - tough luck. And if they sell you a bad transmission - tough luck.


Avoid the Trap. Protect Yourself
All you get to do is pay to go to their private "system" where you will sit in a private room (no public allowed) and try to convince a person picked by the car dealer why they should make the car dealer do something for you. Oh, and you have to pay them for their time. And if they don't side with the car dealer, then the car dealer can just change their paperwork and pick someone else - so whose side do you think they will be on?

Maybe it's time to say "give me back my rights" and start reading your paperwork carefully - and stop doing business with the companies who sell you their products with one hand, take your money with the other hand, and then give you the boot if you catch them ripping you off.

The NRA refuses to let anyone trample on the everyday person's right to bear arms, sure. But who is out there to protect your right to a fair, impartial and public legal system, one where you can go to find Justice? You have to do that for yourself.

So the next time you see something in a contract or paperwork that talks about "arbitration" just take your ink pen out and put a great big "X" over it. If that car dealer wants your money bad enough (and he does), he will take it. And if he doesn't, then you should ask yourself "just what are they doing to me that they are afraid to let a judge and jury find out about?"

And if you already are stuck with an arbitration clause, don't give up. We fight those too. And we win. Fighting a rigged arbitration system by yourself is an uphill battle so don't go it alone. Why do we fight? Frankly, we like fighting for Justice. It's what keeps the bad guys in check.

Arbitration Sucks. More often than ever.


Burdge Law Office
Protecting consumers everyday for more than 25 years.

Rip of the Week - How'd the Payment Get So High?

video

Ever wonder how your car payment got so high without you realizing it? Well, there's a method to some car dealer's madness when it comes to getting into your wallet. Here's one example. We call it our Rip of the Week. Come back next week for another tip on how to keep from getting ripped off when you buy your next car or truck.

Burdge Law Office
Helping Consumer Protect Themselves, Every Day