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Wisconsin Lemon Law Statutes
Wisconsin Lemon law Chapter 218.015
Wisconsin Lemon law 218.015(1)
(intro.) In this section:
- 218.015(1)(a) "Collateral costs" means expenses incurred by a consumer in connection with the repair of a nonconformity, including the costs of obtaining alternative transportation.
218.015(1)(b) (intro.) "Consumer" means any of the following:
- 218.015(1)(b)1. The purchaser of a new motor vehicle, if the motor vehicle was purchased from a motor vehicle dealer for purposes other than resale.
- 218.015(1)(b)2. A person to whom the motor vehicle is transferred for purposes other than resale, if the transfer occurs before the expiration of an express warranty applicable to the motor vehicle.
- 218.015(1)(b)3. A person who may enforce the warranty.
- 218.015(1)(b)4. A person who leases a motor vehicle from a motor vehicle lessor under a written lease.
- 218.015(1)(c)"Manufacturer" means a manufacturer as defined in s. 218.01 (1) (L) and agents of the manufacturer, including an importer, a distributor, factory branch, distributor branch and any warrantors of the manufacturer's motor vehicles, but not including a motor vehicle dealer.
- 218.015(1)(d) "Motor vehicle" means any motor driven vehicle required to be registered under ch. 341 or exempt from registration under s. 341.05 (2), including a demonstrator or executive vehicle not titled or titled by a manufacturer or a motor vehicle dealer, which a consumer purchases or accepts transfer of in this state. "Motor vehicle" does not mean a moped, semitrailer or trailer designed for use in combination with a truck or truck tractor.
- 218.015(1)(e) "Motor vehicle dealer" has the meaning given under s. 218.01 (1) (n). 218.015(1)(em) (em) "Motor vehicle lessor" means a person who holds title to a motor vehicle leased to a lessee, or who holds the lessor's rights, under a written lease.
- 218.015(1)(f) "Nonconformity" means a condition or defect which substantially impairs the use, value or safety of a motor vehicle, and is covered by an express warranty applicable to the motor vehicle or to a component of the motor vehicle, but does not include a condition or defect which is the result of abuse, neglect or unauthorized modification or alteration of the motor vehicle by a consumer.
218.015(1)(h) (intro.) "Reasonable attempt to repair" means any of the following occurring within the term of an express warranty applicable to a new motor vehicle or within one year after first delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer, whichever is sooner:
- 218.015(1)(h)1. The same nonconformity with the warranty is subject to repair by the manufacturer, motor vehicle lessor or any of the manufacturer's authorized motor vehicle dealers at least 4 times and the nonconformity continues.
- 218.015(1)(h)2. The motor vehicle is out of service for an aggregate of at least 30 days because of warranty nonconformities.
Wisconsin Lemon law 218.015(2)
- 218.015(2)(a) If a new motor vehicle does not conform to an applicable express warranty and the consumer reports the nonconformity to the manufacturer, the motor vehicle lessor or any of the manufacturer's authorized motor vehicle dealers and makes the motor vehicle available for repair before the expiration of the warranty or one year after first delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer, whichever is sooner, the nonconformity shall be repaired.
- 218.015(2)(b)1. If after a reasonable attempt to repair the nonconformity is not repaired, the manufacturer shall carry out the requirement under subd. 2. or 3., whichever is appropriate.
218.015(2)(b)2. (intro.) At the direction of a consumer described under sub. (1) (b) 1., 2. or 3., do one of the following:
- 218.015(2)(b)2.a. Accept return of the motor vehicle and replace the motor vehicle with a comparable new motor vehicle and refund any collateral costs.
- 218.015(2)(b)2.b. Accept return of the motor vehicle and refund to the consumer and to any holder of a perfected security interest in the consumer's motor vehicle, as their interest may appear, the full purchase price plus any sales tax, finance charge, amount paid by the consumer at the point of sale and collateral costs, less a reasonable allowance for use. Under this subdivision, a reasonable allowance for use may not exceed the amount obtained by multiplying the full purchase price of the motor vehicle by a fraction, the denominator of which is 100,000 or, for a motorcycle, 20,000, and the numerator of which is the number of miles the motor vehicle was driven before the consumer first reported the nonconformity to the motor vehicle dealer.
- 218.015(2)(b)3.a. With respect to a consumer described in sub. (1) (b) 4., accept return of the motor vehicle, refund to the motor vehicle lessor and to any holder of a perfected security interest in the motor vehicle, as their interest may appear, the current value of the written lease and refund to the consumer the amount the consumer paid under the written lease plus any sales tax and collateral costs, less a reasonable allowance for use.
- 218.015(2)(b)3.b. Under this subdivision, the current value of the written lease equals the total amount for which that lease obligates the consumer during the period of the lease remaining after its early termination, plus the motor vehicle dealer's early termination costs and the value of the motor vehicle at the lease expiration date if the lease sets forth that value, less the motor vehicle lessor's early termination savings. Under this subdivision, a reasonable allowance for use may not exceed the amount obtained by multiplying the total amount for which the written lease obligates the consumer by a fraction, the denominator of which is 100,000 and the numerator of which is the number of miles the consumer drove the motor vehicle before first reporting the nonconformity to the manufacturer, motor vehicle lessor or motor vehicle dealer.
To receive a comparable new motor vehicle or a refund due under par. (b) 1. or 2., a consumer described under sub. (1) (b) 1., 2. or 3. shall offer to the manufacturer of the motor vehicle having the nonconformity to transfer title of that motor vehicle to that manufacturer. No later than 30 days after that offer, the manufacturer shall provide the consumer with the comparable new motor vehicle or refund. When the manufacturer provides the new motor vehicle or refund, the consumer shall return the motor vehicle having the nonconformity to the manufacturer and provide the manufacturer with the certificate of title and all endorsements necessary to transfer title to the manufacturer.
- To receive a refund due under par. (b) 3., a consumer described under sub. (1) (b) 4. shall offer to the manufacturer of the motor vehicle having the nonconformity to return that motor vehicle to that manufacturer. No later than 30 days after that offer, the manufacturer shall provide the refund to the consumer. When the manufacturer provides the refund, the consumer shall return the motor vehicle having the nonconformity to the manufacturer.
- To receive a refund due under par. (b) 3., a motor vehicle lessor shall offer to the manufacturer of the motor vehicle having the nonconformity to transfer title of that motor vehicle to that manufacturer. No later than 30 days after that offer, the manufacturer shall provide the refund to the motor vehicle lessor. When the manufacturer provides the refund, the motor vehicle lessor shall provide to the manufacturer the certificate of title and all endorsements necessary to transfer title to the manufacturer.
- No person may enforce the lease against the consumer after the consumer receives a refund due under par. (b) 3. (cq) Upon payment of a refund to a consumer under par. (b) 2. b., the manufacturer shall provide to the consumer a written statement that specifies the trade-in amount previously applied under s. 77.51 (4) (b) 3. or 3m. or (15) (b) 4. or 4m. toward the sales price of the motor vehicle having the nonconformity and the date on which the manufacturer provided the refund.
- No motor vehicle returned by a consumer or motor vehicle lessor in this state under par. (b), or by a consumer or motor vehicle lessor in another state under a similar law of that state, may be sold or leased again in this state unless full disclosure of the reasons for return is made to any prospective buyer or lessee.
- The department of revenue shall refund to the manufacturer any sales tax which the manufacturer refunded to the consumer under par. (b) if the manufacturer provides to the department of revenue a written request for a refund along with evidence that the sales tax was paid when the motor vehicle was purchased and that the manufacturer refunded the sales tax to the consumer. The department may not refund any sales tax under this paragraph if it has made a refund in connection with the same motor vehicle under par. (f).
The department of revenue shall refund to a consumer described under sub. (1) (b) 1., 2. or 3. all or part of the sales tax paid by the consumer on the purchase of a new motor vehicle, based on the amount of the refund of the purchase price of the motor vehicle actually received by the consumer, if all of the following apply:
- The consumer returned the motor vehicle to its manufacturer and received a refund of all or part of the purchase price but not the corresponding amount of sales tax.
- The consumer bought the new motor vehicle after November 2, 1983.
- The consumer provides the department of revenue with a written request for a refund of the sales tax along with evidence that the consumer received a certain amount as a refund of the purchase price of the motor vehicle from the manufacturer, that the sales tax was paid when the motor vehicle was bought new and that the manufacturer did not refund the sales tax to the consumer.
- The department of revenue has not made a refund under par. (e) in connection with the motor vehicle.
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is a Federal Law that protects the buyer of any product which costs more than $25 and comes with an express written warranty. This law applies to any product that you buy that does not perform as it should.
Your car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its expected dependability and safety. Accordingly, you are entitled to expect an automobile properly constructed and regulated to provide reasonably safe, trouble-free, and dependable transportation – regardless of the exact make and model you bought. Unfortunately, sometimes these principles do not hold true and defects arise in automobiles. Although one defect is not actionable, repeated defects are as there exists a generally accepted rule that unsuccessful repair efforts render the warrantor liable. Simply put, there comes a time when “enough is enough” – when after having to take your car into the shop for repairs an inordinate number of times and experiencing all of the attendant inconvenience, you are entitled to say, ‘That’s all,’ and revoke, notwithstanding the seller’s repeated good faith efforts to fix the car. The rationale behind these basic principles is clear: once your faith in the vehicle is shaken, the vehicle loses its real value to you and becomes an instrument whose integrity is impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension. The question thus becomes when is “enough”?
As you know, enough is never enough from your warrantor’s point of view and you should simply continue to have your defective vehicle repaired – time and time again. However, you are not required to allow a warrantor to tinker with your vehicle indefinitely in the hope that it may eventually be fixed. Rather, you are entitled to expect your vehicle to be repaired within a reasonable opportunity. To this end, both the federal Moss Warranty Act, and the various state “lemon laws,” require repairs to your vehicle be performed within a reasonable opportunity.
Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, a warrantor should perform adequate repairs in at least two, and possibly three, attempts to correct a particular defect. Further, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act’s reasonableness requirement applies to your vehicle as a whole rather than to each individual defect that arises. Although most of the Lemon Laws vary from state to state, each individual law usually require a warrantor to cure a specific defect within four to five attempts or the automobile as a whole within thirty days. If the warrantor fails to meet this obligation, most of the lemon laws provide for a full refund or new replacement vehicle. Further, this reasonable number of attempts/reasonable opportunity standard, whether it be that of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or that of the Lemon Laws, is akin to strict liability – once this threshold has been met, the continued existence of a defect is irrelevant and you are still entitled to relief.
One of the most important parts of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is its fee shifting provision. This provision provides that you may recover the attorney fees incurred in the prosecution of your case if you are successful – independent of how much you actually win. That rational behind this fee shifting provision is to twofold: (1) to ensure you will be able to vindicate your rights without having to expend large sums on attorney's fees and (2) because automobile manufacturers are able to write off all expenses of defense as a legitimate business expense, whereas you, the average consumer, obviously does not have that kind of economic staying power. Most of the Lemon Laws contain similar fee shifting provisions.
You may also derive additional warranty rights from the Uniform Commercial Code; however, the Code does not allow you in most states to recover your attorney fees and is also not as consumer friendly as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act or the various state lemon laws.
The narrative information on Magnuson-Moss, UCC and Wisconsin lemon laws on these pages is provided by Marshall Meyers, attorney.
Uniform Commercial Code Summary
The Uniform Commercial Code or UCC has been enacted in all 50 states and some of the territories of the United States. It is the primary source of law in all contracts dealing with the sale of products. The TARR refers to Tender, Acceptance, Rejection, Revocation and applies to different aspects of the consumer's "relationship" with the purchased goods.
TENDER - The tender provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code contained in Section2-601 provide that the buyer is entitled to reject any goods that fail in any respect to conform to the contract. Unfortunately, new cars are often technically complex and their innermost workings are beyond the understanding of the average new car buyer. The buyer, therefore, does not know whether the goods are then conforming.
ACCEPTANCE - The new car buyer accepts the goods believing and expecting that the manufacturer will repair any problem he has with the goods under the warranty.
REJECTION - The new car buyer may discover a problem with the vehicle within the first few miles of his purchase. This would allow the new car buyer to reject the goods. If the new car buyer discovers a defect in the car within a reasonable time to inspect the vehicle, he may reject the vehicle. This period is not defined. On the one hand, the buyer must be given a reasonable time to inspect and that reasonable time to inspect will be held as an acceptance of the vehicle. The Courts will decide this reasonable time to inspect based on the knowledge and experience of the buyer, the difficulty in discovering the defect, and the opportunity to discover the defect. The following is an example of a case of rejection: Mr. Zabriskie purchase a new 1966 Chevrolet Biscayne. After picking up the car on Friday evening, while en route to his home 2.5 miles away, and within 7/10ths of a mile from the dealership, the car stalled and stalled again within 15 feet. Thereafter, the car would only drive in low gear. The buyer rejected the vehicle and stopped payment on his check. The dealer contended that the buyer could not reject the car because he had driven it around the block and that was his reasonable opportunity to inspect. The New Jersey Court said;
To the layman, the complicated mechanisms of today's automobile are a complete mystery. To have the automobile inspected by someone with sufficient expertise to disassemble the vehicle in order the discover latent defects before the contract is signed, is assuredly impossible and highly impractical. Consequently, the first few miles of driving become even more significant to the excited new car buyer. This is the buyer's first reasonable opportunity to enjoy his new vehicle to see if it conforms to what it was represented to be and whether he is getting what he bargained for. How long the buyer may drive the new car under the guise of inspection of new goods is not an issue in the present case because 7/10th of a mile is clearly within the ambit of a reasonable opportunity to inspect. Zabriskie Chevrolet, Inc. v. Smith, 240 A. 2d 195(1968)
It is suggested that Courts will tend to excuse use by consumers if possible.
REVOCATION - What happens when the consumer has used the new car for a lengthy period of time? This is the typical lemon car case. The UCC provides that a buyer may revoke his acceptance of goods whose non-conformity substantially impairs the value of the goods to him when he has accepted the goods without discovery of a non-conformity because it was difficult to discover or if he was assured that non-conformities would be repaired. Of course, the average new car buyer does not learn of the nonconformity until hundreds of thousands of miles later. And because quality is job one, and manufacturers are competing on the basis of their warranties, the consumer always is assured that any noncomformities he does discover will be remedied. What is a noncomformity substantially impairing the value of the vehicle?
- A noncomformity may include a number of relatively minor defects whose cumulative total adds up to a substantial impairment. This is the "Shake Faith" Doctrine first stated in the Zabrisikie case. "For a majority of people the purchase of a new car is a major investment, rationalized by the peace of mind that flows from its dependability and safety. Once their faith is shaken, the vehicle loses not only its real value in their eyes, but becomes an instrument whose integrity is substantially impaired and whose operation is fraught with apprehension".
- A substantial noncomformity may include a failure or refusal to repair the goods under the warranty. In Durfee V. Rod Baxter Imports, the Minnesota Court held that the Saab owner that was plagued by a series of of annoying minor defects and stalling, which were never repaired after a number of attempts, could revoke, "if repairs are not successfully undertaken within a reasonable time", the consumer may elect to revoke.
- Substantial Non Conformity and Lemon Laws often define what may be considered a substantial impairment. These definitions have been successfully used to flesh out the substantial impairment in the UCC.
Additional narrative information on Magnusson-Moss, UCC and Wisconsin lemon laws on these pages is provided by T. Michael Flinn, attorney.