By Bob Mionske
I have had some bad luck with a new bicycle purchase and was wonderingif there is a type of Lemon Law with bicycles similar to those concerningthe purchase of motor vehicles?
So, you got a lemon, huh? It is hard to contemplate this question (orfor that matter, life) without mentioning that hackneyed, homespun advicethat if life gives you… no, no, I will refrain.
Lemon laws were designed to protect consumers who may not be able toassess possible defects in an automobile prior to the purchase. The inabilityof consumers to obtain fair and prompt redress for persistent and apparentlyunfixable defects in new cars has prodded the legislatures in about twothirds of the states to adopt lemon laws forcing manufacturers to providestandardized language in warranties to provide owners with a right to returnit for a refund, repair it or have it replaced under certain circumstancesand also require used car dealers to provide a written minimum guaranteeof the used car for a short period of time.
While Lemon laws have been expanded to cover the sale of puppies andrecreational vehicles, the law of warranty comes to the rescue for somebicycle purchasers. Thanks to the broad provisions of the Uniform CommercialCode and the Federal Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, virtually every saleof consumer goods today is covered by some kind of warranty (includingbicycles). Consumer goods must meet a certain level of quality, and theimplied warranty of merchantability is the basic warranty of quality. Underthe U.C.C. there is an implied warranty of merchantability in every saleof goods, as long as two conditions are met:The seller is one who ordinarily sells such goods and
The warranty has not been validly excluded or modified. (“Merchantability”means that the goods are of average, acceptable quality in the trade, andfit for their ordinary purposes).But, beware as a seller is generally permitted to exclude or modify theseimplied warranties of merchantability by the use of appropriate language.Although for particular situations there are specific requirements thatthe disclaimer be set forth conspicuously in writing and that it mentionthe word “merchantability.”
Before a consumer can enforce any rights under a warranty, he must notifythe seller that the warranty has been breached. This must be done withina reasonable time after he discovered or should have discovered the breach.Another time limitation to keep in mind is the statute of limitations whichunder the U.C.C. is four years and begins to run in most warranty actionsfrom the time of delivery and not from when you discover the defect.
As for remedies available to you for a breach of warranty, if you actfast enough and if the defect in the goods is serious enough to “substantiallyimpair” the value to you, you can return the bicycle and get your moneyback. In addition to general damages, you may even be able to recover incidentaland consequential and possibly punitive damages depending on the circumstances.
In addition, depending on whether or not the manufacturer of your bicycleprovided a written warranty, you may opt for relief under the federal lawregulating warranties, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This Actapplies to written warranties on consumer products and is designed to achievepractical relief for the consumer without clogging federal courts withwarranty actions. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act is designed tocomplement rather than supersede state warranty law and since some stateshave special consumer warranty statutes which may give the consumer greaterprotection than the federal warranty act, the Federal Trade Commissionhas required that all written warranties covered by the Act must clearlyand conspicuously disclose that you may have more favorable state rights.
Even though there isn’t a strict lemon law for bicycle consumers, theabove warranties provide comparable safeguards to sufficiently protectconsumers of any goods. Now go make some lemonade!
(Research and drafting assistance provided by Katherine Chung- LawStudent- Willamette University School of Law)
Now read the fine print:
Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who representedthe U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the roadrace), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championshiproad race.After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached theSaturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to lawschool. Mionske’s practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.orgBob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He willalso select a few questions each week to answer in this column. Generalbicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.Important notice:
The information provided in the “Legally speaking”column is not legal advice. The information provided on this publicweb site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors tothis web site. The information contained in the column applies to generalprinciples of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legaldevelopments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and thereforeshould not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand thatreading the information contained in this column does not mean youhave established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske.Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained inthe web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.