Enact ‘lemon laws’ to protect car buyers, says CAP

CAP president SM Mohamed Idris (right) and research officer Ravinder Singh (left) at the press conference in Penang calling for lemon laws. (CAP pic)

GEORGE TOWN: A consumer group has called on the government to introduce lemon laws to protect consumers who buy products such as cars that fail to meet quality standards and performance.

Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) president SM Mohamed Idris said with lemon laws in place, car buyers could demand that their defective cars be repaired or replaced.

Lemon laws allow consumers to get a refund or replacement of a product with a major defect. For instance, consumers can use lemon laws to obtain a replacement vehicle if their original vehicle is determined to be “a lemon”.

Idris said countries such as the United States and Singapore had implemented lemon laws. He said Malaysia could look to Singapore for reference on lemon laws, where claims can be made for a defective product bought within six months.

Idris said the Singapore laws also required the seller of the defective product to repair, replace, refund or reduce the price of the defective product, subject to conditions set.

Singapore also requires a defective product to be repaired or replaced at a reasonable time, or demand for refunds if the seller fails to repair it.

Idris said: “It is reasonable that a seriously defective car be repaired in a maximum of a month, and three attempts is reasonable for the service centre to repair the same defect before the lemon law comes into effect.

“Car manufacturers must be held responsible for their defective products and to repair the vehicle satisfactorily as required by the law.

“The number of defective new cars that Malaysians are hopelessly holding on to, with no avenue for legal redress is worrying, and hence, we urge the government to implement them right away.”

The laws should cover used cars as well, said Idris at a press conference here.

He said over the years, CAP had received many complaints about car defects. Letters sent to car dealerships and relevant government agencies had only received denials or evasive replies.

“Which government agency is responsible for monitoring the industry?

“Defective cars are not only a rip-off of consumers, but they are also unsafe on the roads and a danger to other road users,” Idris said.

He suggested, for starters, the government should require all car makers and second-hand car dealers introduce a Standard Vehicle Assessment Report checklist.

He said the checklist should include a visual overlook, equipment functionality and road test checks by the dealer and buyer to ensure transparency.

Idris said many car buyers had to go through hardship, leaving them without their cars and spending many hours at dealerships to find out what had gone wrong with their cars.

He said this was especially so with “trial and error” repairs, where the dealers repaired one part only to find that was not the problem in the first place.

“The service centre buys time until the warranty period expires and the car owner is then left to pay for subsequent repairs of the same defects.

“Engineers’ provide false diagnosis and find fault with vehicle owners (like over-running the service interval) to decline claims for major defects.

“There are cases of vehicles lying in workshops for months, up to six months or more, and yet they are unable to provide a diagnosis, let alone repair the vehicle.”

Idris said the lemon laws must take into account how many times a new car underwent repairs before the buyer was eligible to file a case at the consumer tribunal.