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Senator Sour On Lemon Law Says It Needs Juicing Up To Serve Consumers

Sat., Jan. 31, 1998, midnight

Taking his troublesome BMW sedan into the shop for about 50 visits by the time it had 50,000 miles on it convinced Sen. Grant Ipsen to toughen Idaho’s Lemon Law.

The Boise Republican plans to introduce a bill to make it easier for people who buy bad cars to be reimbursed by manufacturers.

The state’s existing Lemon Law is weak and does not force automakers to pay a fair amount for troublesome cars, Ipsen said.

“This bill would put some teeth in it and get problems corrected more quickly,” he said.

“It’s a consumer-protection piece of legislation.”

The Lemon Law is so weak that he had to spend $10,000 on legal fees before the automaker would agree to a settlement and a replacement car, he said.

Ipsen’s bill targets manufacturers, not dealers. General Motors learned of the proposal and planned to meet with Ipsen, its lobbyist, David Mabe, said.

“Our comment at this point is, we’re not aware of any problems with the current law,” Mabe said.

Ipsen’s proposal, like Idaho’s current law, sets out specific refund guidelines. If a vehicle comes in for the same repairs four or more times, or is in the shop for a total of 30 days in its first two years, manufacturers must offer a refund or replacement vehicle.

But Ipsen’s law goes further than the current statute. It requires automakers to refund the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Current law calls for the dealer to refund the purchase price, but manufacturers have used that as an excuse to cut the refund to far less than the customer originally paid, Ipsen said.

In Idaho, more people complain about automobile-related problems than about any other consumer issue, the Boise area’s Better Business Bureau says.

But with most cars proving to be reliable, few people specifically allege violations of the state’s Lemon Law, executive director Nora Carpenter said.


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