Dealers need to be wary of “warranty repair shoppers.” Sometimes, for various reasons, a car owner has decided he or she wants out of the vehicle. The disgruntled consumer is convinced the car is a “lemon” and nothing will change that person’s mind. The purchaser is “going legal” regardless of what dealers or manufacturers do to fix a problem.
Having made the decision, the consumer, often with the help of legal counsel, will figure out that more repair visits, more repair orders, more parts and more days out of service increase the chances of a refund. Certainly, the majority of customers who have valid warranty claims want to see the car fixed and fixed right as quickly as possible. The more rare, and risky situation for dealers and automakers, involves a consumer who makes as many visits to as many dealers as possible to heap on more claims.
Of course, if the vehicle has a problem covered by the warranty and is not due to anything excluded by the warranty, dealers need to make the repairs. However, often dealers and manufacturers have inspected vehicles, test-driven them, performed diagnostic tests and confidently believe that the car has been successfully repaired. Or, they realize that the owner improperly maintained the car or subjected it to abuse. In these situations, dealers and manufacturers have legal defenses against claims that they failed to live up to their obligations under the warranty. They may have the defense that the consumer failed to comply with the terms of the vehicle’s warranty and thus should not receive further warranty repairs for a problem caused by misuse, abuse or lack of maintenance.
In such cases it is important to note in your records and on computer data systems. Also, you must remain on guard that some consumer attorneys may be encouraging their clients to shop for a dealer who will either do the repairs despite of the notations on the record or to look for dealerships who fail to properly check the repairs history or online databases. Consumers may go from dealer to dealer in their community trying to find someone to perform warranty work on their vehicle. In the current economic climate, many service departments are in need of work and may not think to carefully review the repair history of a vehicle prior to making warranty repairs.
If an unwitting dealership performs repairs on a vehicle which is the subject of a lawsuit, then the consumer can argue that the vehicle had not been successfully repaired or that their problem was not caused by abuse or lack of maintenance based upon the subsequent repair. This is especially true when the repairs are performed after the lawsuit has already been filed. Even in cases where the vehicle has no problem or has been repaired properly, a defendant in a breach of warranty case can be at risk of paying thousands of dollars in damages and even more in attorney’s fees and costs. The dealer who performed the work could have warranty claims denied by the manufacturer or charged back, or it could lead to a visit from an aggravated manufacturer representative.
However, this is a very simple problem to prevent. First, always review any online warranty records, warranty history, or other available notes prior to performing warranty repairs. Look for any indication that the vehicle is subject to a lemon law proceeding or is involved in a lawsuit. If you see any such a notation, you should immediately contact your manufacturer representative. Also, if you see a vehicle which has been repaired at numerous dealerships in the area, you should make a call to the service manager at these dealerships to seek more information or call your manufacturer representative or a representative of the dealership involved in the legal action.
Most importantly, if anything seems out of the ordinary about a customer request or complaint, or if a customer mentions anything that leads you to believe he or she is involved in or considering filing a lawsuit, investigate further before making warranty repairs. By taking a few moments to take these simple steps you may save a fellow dealer or your manufacturer thousands of dollars and save yourself a lot of headaches.