Lemon Law: a source of abuse? - Weekend

Lemon Law: a source of abuse?

Jerome NeriAtty. Jerome G. Neri
The Scrutineer

I JUST found out that there is a Lemon Car Law Watch Facebook page. After going through this page it appears to me that this page was created by a disgruntled Audi customer who won his case in the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). PGA Cars Inc., the Audi dealer in the Philippines was ordered to replace the Audi A6 or give the plaintiff a full refund for the car. The DTI used the Consumer Protection Act as Legal basis as the car was purchased before the enactment of the Lemon Law. PGA Cars has not yet complied with the order of the DTI. I think the non-compliance of PGA cars is because they are appealing the case, therefore the order of the DTI is not yet final and executory.

What sort of defect must a car have to be considered a lemon? (AP PHOTO)
What sort of defect must a car have to be considered a lemon? (AP PHOTO)

According to news reports, the car was first brought in for a warranty repair due to a problem with the car’s CD player. Thereafter, a host of other problems appeared. There was the airbag light, and some steering and suspension noise problems. None of the problems seemed to be major problems. This decision bothered me. It first appeared to me that it seemed so easy for the DTI to order the replacement of a vehicle with only, what I believe to be, minor problems. Insofar as I am concerned, the stereo system and the airbag system is only an accessory of the car and can be independently replaced without replacing the whole car itself. Moreover, airbag technology has been here for a long time and has been very reliable. Another complaint was some steering and suspension noises, something very common for cars in the Philippines given that our roads were designed to wreck a car’s suspension, are an easy fix.

I did more research on this case, but could not find a hard copy of the DTI decision online. I, however, found a more detailed news item regarding this case. It was alleged that this particular Audi was in and out of the shop several times and the problems kept on recurring, and that that PGA Cars could not solve the problem. On the other hand PGA Cars said they have repaired the car, and the car is of good running condition and that they are perplexed why the owner never claimed the vehicle. PGA Cars further said that nothing was wrong with the stereo system of the car and the reason that it did not work was that the plaintiff was using a pirated CD.

PGA filed a motion before the DTI requesting them to use and test the car. The motion was denied. Would not an actual test of the car that is the subject matter of the case be the best way of determining the quality of the car?

It appears to me that our Lemon Law can be a source of abuse. The Audi A6 is a car with a very good reputation worldwide and is known to be one of the most reliable cars. Audi is known for very good quality. The CD player and the Airbag system are not part of the car but rather an accessory of the car. Any defects in that area is not a defect on the car itself. Those accessories can easily be replaced without replacing the whole car or giving a full refund.

For the DTI to order PGA cars to replace an Audi A6 is taking the Lemon Law beyond its intentions. In order for a car to be considered a lemon, I believe the defect should be from the car itself and not any of the accessories. The defect should be such that the car cannot function as a car if the defective part is removed. Thus, it must be something like the engine, transmission and/or other part that makes a car a car. In this case, if we remove the CD player, the Audi A6 still functions as a car, remove the whole airbag system, the Audi will still function as a car. The replacement of the defective parts should be enough.

The DTI has set a very dangerous precedent.

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