Buono-Scutari Bill Expanding NJ Motor Vehicle Lemon Law Signed

Returning members of the State Senate are sworn in

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman, Senator Barbara Buono, and State Government Committee Chairman, Senator Nicholas P. Scutari, which expands consumer protections under New Jersey’s motor vehicle “Lemon Law” from two years or 18,000 miles to two years or 24,000 miles, was signed into law yesterday by Governor Corzine.

“This change is reasonable and sorely needed since current usage patterns and needs have changed considerably,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “Drivers commute to work much farther than when the law was enacted 18 years ago and subsequently consumers are finding their lemon law rights are limited to approximately a year of usage. In fact, the average consumer reaches the 18,000 mile limit after only 14 months. By broadening the window through which individuals can file claims to 24,000 miles or two years, we will be affording many hardworking New Jerseyans enhanced consumer protection.”

“New Jersey consumers deserve a guarantee that their car purchases are covered under the strictest protections possible,” said Senator Scutari, D-Union, Somerset and Middlesex. “Through this legislation, we’re bringing the State’s ‘Lemon Law’ into the 21st century, and going the extra step needed to create meaningful and lasting consumer protections for auto buyers in New Jersey. A ‘buyer beware’ policy just doesn’t cut it when so much money is at stake.”

The bill, S-454, amends New Jersey’s “Lemon Law,” which protects purchasers of new automobiles or motorcycles, by increasing the mileage threshold for which an auto or motorcycle would qualify for “Lemon Law” protections from the first 18,000 miles to the first 24,000 miles of operation. The new law also creates a distinction between general automotive defects and defects which are “likely to cause death or serious bodily injury”. Under the new law, consumers who purchase a vehicle with a defect that is likely to cause serious bodily injury or death would be able to declare the vehicle a lemon if the problem cannot be corrected after a single repair attempt. The manufacturer would then have one opportunity to cure the life threatening defect after the vehicle is declared a lemon.

“Major mechanical defects which could result in death or serious injury should merit a quicker response than a faulty CD player,” said Senator Buono. “Under the previous ‘Lemon Law,’ no added weight was given to potentially dangerous mechanical failures. Now, we’re taking a zero-tolerance stand against manufacturer defects which put drivers in harm’s way.”

Finally the new law amends the written notice requirements to require auto retailers to provide information on New Jersey’s “Lemon Law” in both English and Spanish.

“Consumer protections are a right for everyone, and not subject to a language barrier,” said Senator Scutari. “This bill recognizes that a significant population in New Jersey does not speak English as a primary language, but that population is still entitled to the same consumer protections as everyone else. We have a responsibility to notify people of their rights, and enforce consumer protections whenever applicable.”

The bill received final legislative approval in both houses in June.

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