New limits on Wisconsin lemon law go into effect

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Associated Press | March 3, 2014

MILWAUKEE — If the vehicle you just bought turns out to be a lemon, you'll have less time after this weekend to seek damages from the manufacturer and you won't get as much money.

The restrictions that went into effect Saturday drew broad bipartisan support when state lawmakers approved them last year. Supporters said the previous law left too much room for abuse by consumers and lawyers. Opponents say the new rules favor corporations over people.

The lemon law applies to new vehicles on which the manufacturer fails to repair a warranty-covered defect even after four tries in one year, or fails to provide a timely refund or replacement. Previously, car owners had six years to sue the carmaker, and they'd be eligible for mandatory double damages. Now they have three years, and they can only get actual damages.

The changes bring Wisconsin's lemon law in line with those in other states, said Chris Snyder, general counsel for the Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association, a trade group that supported the measure.

"Consumers are still protected under this bill," Snyder said.

Wisconsin's efforts to water down its lemon law began last year with a bill crafted by Republican lawmakers. It would have eliminated the mandatory awarding of consumer damages and attorney fees and forced consumers to file lawsuits within two years.

After that version drew opposition, the Assembly Judiciary Committee removed the restriction on damages and allowed customers three years, not two, to file suit.

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