Some Sour on Lemon Law

Gregory Vellner

LEVITTOWN, Pa. -- A few days after the Bucks County, Pa., commissioners passed a lemon law protecting used-car buyers, local dealerships said they already offer buyers the items named in the new law.

“We provide a warranty and don’t put a car out for sale unless already inspected,” said a representative who did not want to be name at Levittown Auto, 4033 New Rogers Road.

Said a spokesman at DriveTime, 1816 E. Lincoln Hwy in Langhorne: “Inspection is done ahead of time, we offer a 30-day limited warranty on the vehicle and have protection plans.”

The new ordinance – offering county-level protection making it the first of its kind in Pennsylvania – provides a legal remedy to consumers who buy a used car that turns out to be a lemon. It goes into effect in January.

“Most of our auto dealers by far are honest and do a good job,” said Michael Bannon, director of the county Consumer Protection/Weights & Measures Department. “But I’m afraid that there’s a few businesses out there that have given the industry a black eye, and that’s what we’re looking to address right now.”

Such a “black eye” struck a consumer three months ago at a used-car dealership not far from the other two.

“A month after I got the car, it was in the shop twice for an old battery, dead bulbs, torn down rotors, the brakes,” said the woman who bought the car and whose name is intentionally withheld. “More upset than mad. You can’t get any decent honest help from anybody. Save your money. They will charge you an arm and a leg for a worn down car.”

The ordinance, unanimously approved by the three commissioners, requires car dealers to provide warranties on certain used car purchases, ensure the used cars they sell can pass inspection and tell the truth about their vehicles for sale.

Warranty requirements vary with some vehicles, like older cars and those with more than 100,000 miles, exempted from the ordinance.

“This first-of-its-kind county ordinance is the latest example of our administration’s investment in Consumer Protection as well as our vision of a Law Department that is proactive in addressing the needs of Bucks Countians,” said Commissioner Chair Bob Harvie.

The ordinance expands local enforcement capabilities, allowing the Law Department and Consumer Protection/Weights & Measures to crack down on dealers who make misrepresentations about, or fail to disclose issues with, the used cars they sell.

County Solicitor Joe Kahn noted that in the six months between the ordinance’s passage and implementation, Consumer Protection plans to conduct outreach to help local car dealers understand their obligations under the new ordinance.

County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said the new law ‘makes a lot of sense.” Said he: “This really strengthens the safety net for the consumer.”

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As a professional journalist for several years -- reporter, editor, feature writer, columnist -- I handled a range of subjects. Breaking news, investigative series, government action, feature events, and staff feature writer with national entertainment magazine interviewing stars including Tom Selleck, Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito. No matter the topic, certain ingredients are key: truth, facts, objectivity, balance.

Bucks County, PA

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