How Lemon Laws Came About
Norman Taylor & Associates
January 28, 2020
If you’re driving a defective vehicle that won’t respond to repairs, you may be thinking about filing a lemon law claim, as you should. When you invest so much money in a new or used vehicle covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, the manufacturer should deliver what it promised no questions asked, but it’s rarely that simple.
You may be wondering how the lemon laws came about. They arose because they needed to be enacted. Some vehicle manufacturers, unfortunately, were taking advantage of consumers and it was the consumers who had to pay the price. According to Cornell University, the origin of lemon laws is “an interesting story.”
Origin of Lemon Law
Initially, it was the British who came up with the word “lemon” to refer to the fruit and a product of poor or substandard quality. Americans started using the term “lemon” around 1909 to refer to worthless or poor-quality products, and by 1960, the term was widely used to refer to worthless used cars. In present day, a “lemon” can refer to a defective new or used vehicle that won’t respond to a reasonable number of repairs.
Are lemon laws on the state or federal level? “Today’s lemon laws are most enforced at the state level but have a federal act as a backbone for each one. This act is called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, often dubbed the lemon law,” according to Cornell University.
First Lemon Law is Passed
The first lemon law to be passed in the United States was in Connecticut by John J. Woodcock III after one of the residents in his district claimed to have purchased a vehicle for $7,000, only for it to be a lemon. The warranty that came with the man’s car apparently had loopholes in it, which let the seller get away with selling “classic lemons,” while commanding “good car prices.”
Shortly after this historical event, dozens of other consumers, who were likely wronged by sketchy warranties, joined the protest and the first lemon law was passed. However, lemon laws do not prevent lemons from being sold, so consumers still buy them unwittingly. What the lemon laws do is give consumers legal remedies for defects covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, whether the vehicle is new or used.
“People are very quickly dissuaded from buying a used car if it is not backed by the lemon law. And producers do not want to back their lemons with warranties because that would be incredibly unprofitable/cause legal issues,” according to Cornell. “It’s a very clever solution to the used car market and shows how much a seller actually values the car.”