How the New Right-to-Repair Act Could Impact California & Lemon Law

Back in March of 2019, news broke that California would again be pushing “Right to Repair” legislation, joining 19 other states in doing so.

So what exactly is the Right to Repair Act?

All fine print aside, the Right to Repair requires companies to provide a repair option for their products. To give you an example, if this law passes, it means you can get your six-year-old MacBook fixed by Apple in the state of California. This would also apply directly to auto manufacturers.

Currently, big manufacturers leverage a loophole in the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (better known as lemon law) process that essentially means they do not have to provide product parts to the consumer. The Right to Repair Act would virtually end this.

If this law were to pass, the ripple effect in California lemon law could be substantial. As a lemon law attorney in Los Angeles, the Right to Repair Act could change the game for us.

Here are a few major shifts we could very well see in the scenario the Right to Repair Act becomes a reality.

1. Reduces Gray Areas in Warranty Statuses

In lemon law, warranty statuses dictate much of the legal proceedings. In California, lemon law for vehicles indicates that warranty-specified defects are covered under lemon law presumption if they occur within 18 months of the purchase date, or before 18,000 miles accrue on the odometer.

However, with the right legal counsel, consumers can get benefits from the manufacturer for defective parts as long as the warranty is not expired. Now, in terms of gray areas with warranties, much of it comes down to the timeframe and the parts covered. There are generally three types of vehicle manufacturer warranties:

  • Bumper to Bumper - Typically lasts for three years/36,000 miles and covers everything from the front bumper to the back bumper of the vehicle.
  • Powertrain/Drivetrain - Covers the engine, transmission, and other mechanical parts of the vehicle. These usually last five years/60,000 miles.
  • Corrosion/Rust - Covers repairs due to rust or premature deterioration. These usually last for three years/36,000 miles.

In addition to these three types, there are other, less common warranties sometimes referred to as “goodwill service” or “policy adjustments.”

Under the Right to Repair Act, the manufacturer would be required to supply replacement parts for repair over a specified amount of time, regardless of what the warranty says. Therefore, the process of getting justice from the manufacturer for faulty products would (ideally) be a lot less complicated.

2. Expands Number of Repair Attempts

Under lemon law, the manufacturer has a “reasonable” number of repair attempts before the product has deemed a lemon. Defining a “reasonable” number of repair attempts is another one of the big gray areas of the law.

With the Right to Repair Act, manufacturers would be required to provide replacement parts to consumers. From here, they could either fix it themselves or take the product or vehicle to a repair vendor of their choice - as opposed to one chosen by the manufacturer.

So, under the new law, consumers could virtually carry out as many repair attempts as they want to their product for as long as the manufacturer is required to provide the parts. In some ways, this concept could complicate the lemon law process.

3. De-Monopolizes the Repair Economy

The Right to Repair Act has been heavily lobbied against by the big name manufacturers. One of the biggest reasons why is because they don’t want independent shops eating into their repair profits.

As it currently stands, manufacturers make it exceptionally difficult to get access to replacement parts and service information. By doing this, they can (and do) monopolize the repair market. For example, if your iPhone breaks down, you generally have to go directly to an Apple store to get it fixed with the proper parts.

If the Right to Repair Act is passed, they would have to supply these parts and the consumer could take it anywhere they want to get it fixed. In turn, the repair economy would be much more diverse and give the smaller shops a fighting chance against the corporations.

4. Increases Quality Control

In the scenario that manufacturers have to supply replacement parts, yet don’t get the revenue from carrying out the actual repairs, this would obviously pressure them to up their game in quality assurance.

Many would argue that the emphasis on quality has declined over the past few decades. Manufacturers commonly outsource production, which in turn, has deteriorated the quality of many products. The result has formed an unhealthy flow of events: people spend money to buy products, the products become defective, then they have to pay more money to get them fixed.

Hopefully, the passing of this law would spur a change in that manufacturers to need to start improving their standards of quality. The goal would be to avoid the costs of producing replacement parts and missing repair revenue.

Wrapping Up

Keep in mind, the points made above should be taken with a grain of salt. They are merely speculation at this point in time. In the auto world, the passing of the Right to Repair Act is another good step in holding manufacturers accountable for shoddy production.

If this law gets passed, it will be very interesting to see the full extent of the effects!

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