YOU HAVE MORE POWER THAN YOU THINK

All of us are consumers of goods and services and, at times, may have felt powerless or frustrated when defrauded or taken advantage of.  In most situations, however, under Ohio and federal consumer protection laws, you have more power than you might imagine.  We, at Fusco, Mackey, Mathews & Gill LLP, have aggressively and effectively championed the rights of consumers in obtaining justice.

Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (“CSPA”)

The Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act (“CSPA”) found in Sections 1345.01 through 1345.99 of the Ohio Revised Code, prohibits individuals and companies providing goods and services to consumers from engaging in unfair, deceptive and/or unconscionable acts or practices in the sale, lease, or other transfer of those goods or services for personal, family or household purposes.

CSPA applies to most businesses with which you deal everyday including:  car dealers, home construction and home improvement service providers (builders, roofers, siding installers, etc.), retain stores, health clubs, mortgage brokers and many other types of businesses.

REAL CONSEQUENCES

There are real and unpleasant potential consequences for those who violate CSPA.  If a consumer succeeds in proving a CSPA violation, the consumer can elect to either rescind (undo) the transaction or recover actual economic damages and, in certain cases, up to $5,000.00 in non-economic damages (such as emotional distress).  In some cases, the consumer may even recover three times his/her actual economic damages and attorney’s fees.  Often just the threat of these potential consequences leads to a quick resolution of your claim.

OHIO’S HOME SOLICITATION SALES ACT (“HSSA”)

A close companion of CSPA is Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act (“HSSA”).  This law, found at Sections 1345.21 to 1345.28 of the Ohio Revised Code, applies to most transactions for goods or services where the contract is negotiated in your home or a place other than the place of business of the seller of the goods or services.

HSSA imposes several requirements on sellers including that a written contract be signed and that it include a specific provision advising the consumer of the right to cancel the deal within three (3) business days.  The 3-day cancellation period does not begin to run until the properly-worded notice is delivered to the consumer.  This means that if the seller fails to comply with this HSSA requirement, the consumer may cancel the deal even after the goods have been furnished and the services completed.  Courts have actually enforced this portion of HSSA, in some cases allowing the consumer to retain the goods and services while requiring the seller to give the consumer a refund.

OHIO’S LEMON LAW (NEW CARS)

If you purchase or lease a new (previously untitled) vehicle and within the first 12 months of ownership, or first 18,000 miles, whichever comes first, you discover that it has a defect which substantially impairs its use, safety or value, you may be entitled to receive a total refund of a replacement vehicle of comparable value under Ohio’s Lemon Law, codified at sections 1345.71 through 1345.81 of the Ohio Revised Code.

A vehicle is presumed to be a “lemon” if: a.) There have been 3 or more unsuccessful attempts to repair the same defect; or b.) the vehicle is out of service for repair for a cumulative total of 30 or more calendar days; c.) there have been 8 or more attempts to repair any defect that substantially impairs the use and value of the vehicle; d.) at least one attempt to repair any defect which results in a condition that is likely to cause death or serious bodily injury if the vehicle is driven and the defect continues to exist or reoccurs.

WHAT ABOUT DEFECTIVE USED VEHICLES?

Although the Lemon Law applies only to new vehicles, other laws may protect you as a consumer, if you discover that the vehicle you purchased is defective.

The federal Magnuson-Mass Warranty Act imposes certain requirements and prohibits certain practices by a seller of consumer goods, including vehicles, who offers a warranty or service contract. A seller must repair your vehicle within a reasonable number of attempts within a reasonable time.

Even if you purchased a used vehicle without a warranty or service contract, you may have recourse under Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (“CSPA”) against a seller who makes misrepresentations about any aspect of the transaction or engages in any other unfair or deceptive act or practice in connection with the transaction.

Finally, the FTC Used Motor Vehicle Trade Regulation Rule requires dealers selling used vehicles to put a window sticker on the vehicle. The rule requires use of a specific form and that specific information be included on this form. Some dealers don’t use the form at all; Many use the form but do not fully comply with the Rule. Their failure to comply could mean that you can cancel the transaction.

THE POINT…Just because the Lemon Law doesn’t apply, you may still have enforceable rights when you purchase a vehicle.