What you need to know about the Arbitration Certification Program

As a California resident, you likely already know that our state has a very strict Lemon Law regarding vehicles that you buy or lease. What you may not know, however, is that you and the vehicle manufacturer must go through an arbitration process to avail yourself of the Lemon Law protections. Furthermore, a state-certified arbitration program must conduct the arbitration hearing.

While you may think that the Arbitration Certification Program conducts these hearings, such is not the case. Instead, the ACP’s mission is merely to certify arbitration programs whose processes not only comply with the Lemon Law, but also provide a fair and expeditious process by which to resolve Lemon Law disputes. The ACP has oversight authority only. It neither conducts arbitration hearings nor modifies nor overturns arbitration decisions.

Lemon Law Review

Basically, when you buy or lease a new or used vehicle in California, the Lemon Law protects you if your vehicle develops warranty defects that its manufacturer or the dealer you bought or leased from cannot fix. This protection lasts throughout the term of your original warranty. Should you serve in the U.S. military and become stationed in California, you can also receive Lemon Law protection regardless of where you bought or leased your vehicle.

Under the Lemon Law’s presumption, your vehicle qualifies as a lemon if any of the following things happen within 18 months of your purchase or lease or during the first 18,000 miles you drive the vehicle:

  • The manufacturer or dealer unsuccessfully attempts to fix the same warranty problem at least four times.
  • The manufacturer or dealer unsuccessfully attempts at least twice to fix one or more serious warranty problems that could result in your injury or death if you continue to drive the vehicle.
  • You cannot drive your vehicle for a total of at least 30 days due to these unsuccessful repair attempts.

Once qualified as a lemon, the Lemon Law entitles you to either a return of your purchase price or a replacement vehicle. However, you should know that the manufacturer can try to rebut this presumption during arbitration.