Senators Sour on Oklahoma Lemon Law

Thursday, March 26th 2009, 3:22 pm

By: News 9

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Legislation that strengthens consumer protections for Oklahomans who buy defective cars and trucks has hit a roadblock in the state Senate.

The chairman of the Senate Business and Labor Committee, Sen. Harry Coates, said Thursday he does not plan to give the House-passed "Lemon Law" a hearing because there is little support for the bill in the chamber.

"I'm just not interested in putting the members through a contentious debate on a bill that apparently doesn't have a whole lot of support," said Coates, R-Seminole.

The senator also contended the issue of defective vehicles does not pose a big problem for the state.

"There are a few bad actors out there within the industry. But I think they're isolated cases," Coates said.

A supporter of the bill said she is disappointed and challenged Coates' claim that the bill has little support.

"There is support for this bill," said Angie Gallant of Broken Arrow, a consumer who has advocated for greater consumer rights since she fought with General Motors for 10 months in 2004 to get her defective Chevrolet Malibu replaced.

The bill passed the House in February in a bipartisan 97-2 vote and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers in Washington, D.C., has taken a neutral position on the bill.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson also expressed support for the measure in a letter to the bill's author, Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, in which he said it would give "fair protections to consumers in the event they purchase a 'lemon'."

"For one person to just decide willy-nilly that he doesn't like this bill I think is a real travesty for car consumers in Oklahoma," Gallant said.

"Maybe Senator Coates should stand outside the Wal Mart in his district and talk to the regular people about that they think about the bill and then get a true idea of what kind of support it has," she said.

Duncan said the bill is not a partisan issue and enjoys broad support among both Republicans and Democrats. He said he plans to revive the "Lemon Law" by attaching its language to a Senate-passed consumer protection measure that is pending in a House committee.

"The manufacturers are neutral. It doesn't affect the dealers," Duncan said. "It's good for business and it's good for consumers -- especially in this economy."

"It's just a commonsense approach," Duncan said.

Supporters say the bill clarifies existing state law regarding how manufacturers respond to consumers who buy defective vehicles and puts the consumer on a more equal footing when negotiating with a manufacturer, the measure's author said.

Among other things, the bill gives consumers the choice of a refund or replacement of a defective vehicle. Currently, that choice is at the discretion of the manufacturer.

It also places a standard in state law for a manufacturer's charge for mileage on a defective vehicle and prohibits a manufacturer from charging for mileage if the lemon is simply replaced.

Under the bill, a consumer would pay nothing for the first 15,000 miles driven in a lemon that is replaced. Reasonable usage of a vehicle driven more than that would be calculated with a formula spelled out in state law.

The measure also requires the Attorney General, the Tax Commission and auto dealers to label, tag and register lemon vehicles.


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