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New Jersey Administrative Code Title 13:45A-26

Saturday, October 1, 2016
SUBCHAPTER 26. AUTOMOTIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

13:45A-26.1 Purpose and scope

(a) The purpose of this subchapter is to implement the Lemon Law, P.L. 1988, c.123, by establishing an automotive dispute resolution system within the Division of Consumer Affairs in conjunction with the Office of Administrative Law. The subchapter also sets forth the method of refund computation, and details the reporting requirements and procedure for publication of compliance records of manufacturers of motor vehicles.

(b) This subchapter is applicable to:

1. All manufacturers of passenger cars and motorcycles registered, sold or leased in the State of New Jersey;

2. All purchasers and lessees of passenger cars and motorcycles registered, sold or leased in the State of New Jersey; and

3. Dealers servicing such vehicles whether their service facilities are located within or outside of the State.

13:45A-26.2 Definitions

As used in this subchapter, the following words shall have the following meanings:

"Days" means calendar days.

"Director" means the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.

"Dispute Resolution System" means a procedure established by the Division of Consumer Affairs and the Office of Administrative Law for the resolution of disputes regarding motor vehicle nonconformity(s) through summary administrative hearings.

"Lemon Law" means P.L. 1988, c.123, an Act concerning new motor warranties and repealing P.L. 1983, c.215, as amended by P.L. 1993, c.21.

"Lemon Law Unit" ("LLU") means the administrative unit within the Division of Consumer Affairs that processes Lemon Law matters.

"Motor vehicle" means a passenger automobile or motorcycle as defined in N.J.S.A. 39:1-1, that is registered, sold or leased in the State of New Jersey, whether purchased, leased, or repaired in the State or outside the State.

"Nonconformity" means a defect or condition which substantially impairs the use, value or safety of a motor vehicle.

"OAL" means the Office of Administrative Law.

"Out of service" means the number of days the defective motor vehicle is on the premises of a repair facility for the purpose of repairing one or more nonconformities; delays caused by the consumer, such as a delay in picking up the motor vehicle from the facility after notification that it is ready, shall not be counted as days out of service.

"Term of protection" means within the first 18,000 miles of operation or the two years following the original date of delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer, whichever is the earlier date.

"Title" means the certificate of ownership of a motor vehicle.

13:45A-26.3 Statements to consumer; other notices

(a) At the time of purchase or lease of a motor vehicle in the State of New Jersey, the manufacturer, through its dealer or lessor, shall provide the following written statement directly to the consumer on a separate piece of paper, in 10-point bold-face type:

"IMPORTANT: IF THIS VEHICLE IS DEFECTIVE, YOU MAY BE ENTITLED UNDER NEW JERSEY LAW TO A REFUND OF THE PURCHASE PRICE OR YOUR LEASE PAYMENTS. FOR COMPLETE INFORMATION REGARDING YOUR RIGHTS AND REMEDIES UNDER THE RELEVANT LAW, CONTACT THE NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF LAW AND PUBLIC SAFETY, DIVISION OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS, LEMON LAW UNIT, AT POST OFFICE BOX 45026, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY 07101, TEL. NO. (973) 504-6226."

The manufacturer, through its dealer or lessor, shall maintain a record substantiating compliance with this section and shall make the record available to the Division upon request.

(b) If a motor vehicle is returned to the manufacturer under the provisions of the Lemon Law or a similar statute of another state or as the result of a legal action or an informal dispute settlement procedure, the motor vehicle shall not be resold or released in New Jersey unless the following steps are taken:

1. Immediately upon receipt of the vehicle, the manufacturer, its agent, or a dealer who accepts the vehicle shall cause the words "R--RETURNED TO MANUFACTURER UNDER LEMON LAW OR OTHER PROCEEDING" to be clearly and conspicuously stamped on the face of the original certificate of title, the manufacturer's statement of origin, or other evidence of ownership.

2. Within 10 days of receipt of the vehicle, the manufacturer, its agent, or a dealer who accepts the vehicle shall submit a copy of the stamped document to the Special Title Section of the Division of Motor Vehicles to indicate that title to the vehicle shall be permanently branded.

3. The manufacturer shall provide to the dealer or lessor, and the dealer or lessor shall provide to the consumer prior to the resale or release of the motor vehicle a copy for the consumer's records of the following statement on a separate piece of paper, in 10-point boldface type:

NOTICE OF NONCONFORMITY

"IMPORTANT: THIS VEHICLE WAS RETURNED TO THE MANUFACTURER BECAUSE IT DID NOT CONFORM TO THE MANUFACTURER'S WARRANTY AND THE NONCONFORMITY WAS NOT CORRECTED WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME AS PROVIDED BY LAW."

(This notice is required under the New Jersey "Lemon Law", N.J.S.A. 56:12-1 et seq., for vehicles that have been replaced or repurchased by the manufacturer as the result of any one of the following: a court judgment, or a final decision pursuant to a hearing or settlement by the Office of Administrative Law, or an arbitration proceeding between the manufacturer or its agent and a consumer.)

4. Upon delivery to the consumer of the statement in (b)3 above the dealer or lessor shall obtain from the consumer a signed receipt, on a separate sheet of paper, which shall state the following, in underlined 10-point boldface type:

"I ACKNOWLEDGE RECEIPT OF NOTICE OF NONCONFORMITY OF THIS VEHICLE, VIN NO. __________ AS REQUIRED BY N.J.S.A. 56:12-35 (THE 'LEMON LAW')."

Alternatively, the dealer or lessor may fulfill this requirement by making the following notation in underlined boldface type on the front page of the vehicle buyer order form or the lease form:

"NOTICE OF NONCONFORMITY OF THIS VEHICLE, VIN NO. __________, HAS BEEN PROVIDED TO THE PURCHASER OR LESSEE, AS REQUIRED BY N.J.S.A. 56:12-35 (THE 'LEMON LAW')."

5. The manufacturer, dealer or lessor shall notify the Special Title Section of the Division of Motor Vehicles of the resale or release of the vehicle by requesting transfer of the branded title to the new owner or lessor, in writing.

(c) Each time a consumer's motor vehicle is returned from being examined or repaired during the term of protection, the manufacturer through its dealer shall provide to the consumer an itemized, legible statement of repair which indicates any diagnosis made and all work performed on the vehicle; the statement of repair shall provide at least the following information:

1. A description or identification of the problem reported by the consumer or an identification of the defect or condition;

2. A specific description of the repair work performed.

3. The amount charged for parts and the amount charged for labor, if paid by the consumer;

4. The date and the odometer reading when the vehicle was submitted for repair; and

5. The date and the odometer reading when the vehicle was made available to the consumer.

(d) Failure to comply with the provisions of this section shall be a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq.

13:45A-26.4 Lemon Law Unit

(a) There is established within the Division of Consumer Affairs a section processing Lemon Law matters, to be known as the Lemon Law Unit (LLU).

(b) The Lemon Law Unit shall upon request provide consumers with a brochure setting forth:

1. Information regarding a consumer's rights and remedies under the relevant law; and

2. The procedure to be followed in order to participate in the various dispute resolution systems.

(c) All correspondence by consumers or manufacturers to the Division of Consumer Affairs regarding Lemon Law matters shall be directed to the attention of the Lemon Law Unit, as follows:

Division of Consumer Affairs
Lemon Law Unit
Post Office Box 45026
Newark, New Jersey 07101
Telephone (973) 504-6226

13:45A-26.5 Preliminary steps

(a) To initiate a claim under the Lemon Law, written notification of the potential claim must be sent certified mail, return receipt requested, by or on behalf of a consumer, to the manufacturer of a nonconforming motor vehicle if either of the following occurs during the first 18,000 miles of operation or within 24 months after the date of original delivery, whichever is earlier:

1. Substantially the same nonconformity has been subject to repair two or more times by the manufacturer or its dealer and the nonconformity continues to exist; or

2. The motor vehicle has been out of service by reason of repair for one or more nonconformities for a cumulative total of 20 or more days since the original delivery of the motor vehicle, and a nonconformity continues to exist.

(b) The manufacturer by law has one more opportunity to repair or correct the nonconformity within 10 days following receipt of notification from the consumer of a potential claim; if the nonconformity continues to exist after expiration of the 10-day time period and the manufacturer refuses to replace or refund the price of the vehicle, the criteria necessary to pursue a Lemon Law claim have been met. The consumer may then:

1. Refer the matter to the manufacturer for resolution through the manufacturer's informal dispute settlement procedure;

2. Refer the matter to the LLU for dispute resolution; or

3. File an action in the Superior Court. Any party to an action asserting a claim, counterclaim or defense based upon violations of the Lemon Law shall mail a copy of the initial or responsive pleading containing the claim, counterclaim or defense to the Attorney General within 10 days after filing the pleading with the court.

13:45A-26.6 Eligibility

(a) To be eligible for the Dispute Resolution System, a consumer must provide the following items to the LLU by certified mail, return receipt requested:

1. A photocopy of the consumer's notification to the manufacturer of a potential claim; and

2. A completed Application for Dispute Resolution; the form will be supplied upon request by the LLU.

(b) During any periods when forms are not available, any written request for dispute resolution shall be accepted by the LLU provided all information, items and statements listed in N.J.A.C. 13:45A-26.7 are included.

(c) A consumer is eligible for dispute resolution by the Division as to a specific motor vehicle only once; no further applications from that consumer relating to the same motor vehicle will be accepted if a final decision has been rendered pursuant to N.J.A.C. 13:45A-26.12(b).

13:45A-26.7 Application

(a) Application for dispute resolution shall require submission of the following:

1. Information as follows:

i. The name and address of the consumer and lienholder, if any;

ii. The date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to the consumer;

iii. The mileage on the date the nonconformity was first reported to the manufacturer or its dealer; and

iv. The mileage on the date the application is mailed back to LLU.

2. A written account of the events resulting in the dispute, including description of the claimed nonconformity(s) and a chronology of the repair attempts.

3. A photocopy of the notification of a potential claim sent by or on behalf of the consumer to the manufacturer after two or more attempts to repair or 20 calendar days out of service, and a photocopy of the return receipt signed by the manufacturer's agent.

4. Photocopies of the statements of repair required by section 6(b) of the Lemon Law, to be given to the consumer by the manufacturer through its dealer, each time a motor vehicle is returned from being examined or repaired.

5. Photocopies of the agreement of sale or lease, including any stated credit or allowance for the consumer's used motor vehicle, the receipt for payment of any options or other modifications arranged, installed or made by the manufacturer or its dealer within 30 days after the date of original delivery, receipts for any other charges or fees including but not limited to:

i. Sales tax;

ii. License and registration fees;

iii. Finance charges;

iv. Towing;

v. Rental of a motor vehicle equivalent to the consumer's motor vehicle for the period when the consumer's motor vehicle was out of service due to a nonconformity; and

vi. Any other documents related to the dispute.

(b) The application must contain a statement as to the following:

1. That the consumer believes the motor vehicle's use, market value or safety is substantially impaired by the nonconformity(s) complained of;

2. That the nonconformity(s) complained of is not the result of abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications of the motor vehicle by anyone other than the manufacturer or its dealer;

3. That within the term of protection the manufacturer, its agent or authorized dealer failed in at least two attempts to correct the same substantial defect, or the vehicle was out of service by reason of repair for at least 20 days;

4. That within the term of protection the consumer gave the manufacturer written notification by certified mail, return receipt requested, of a potential claim pursuant to the Lemon Law, section 5(b); and

5. That within the term of protection:

i. The consumer gave the manufacturer or its dealer at least three attempts (including the post-notification attempt) to repair substantially the same nonconformity and the nonconformity continues to exist; or

ii. The vehicle was out of service by reason of repair for one or more nonconformities for a cumulative total of 20 or more days since the original delivery of the motor vehicle, the manufacturer has been given the post- notification opportunity to repair, and a nonconformity continues to exist.

13:45A-26.8 Filing fee

(a) A consumer whose application for dispute resolution is accepted by the Division shall pay a filing fee of $50.00 by certified check or money order payable to the "New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs". The filing fee shall be nonrefundable but is recoverable as a cost if the consumer prevails.

(b) The filing fee shall be requested by the LLU when it has determined that the consumer's application is complete and that it complies with this subchapter and the Lemon Law.

13:45A-26.9 Processing of applications

(a) Submitted applications shall be reviewed by the LLU for completeness and compliance with the Lemon Law and this subchapter.

1. Incomplete applications shall be promptly returned for completion to the consumer.

2. Applications not in compliance with this subchapter and the Lemon Law (including but not limited to the required number of repair attempts or the number of days out of service) will be rejected. The reason for the rejection will be sent to the consumer. No judgment will be made by the LLU as to whether the claimed defect(s) are substantiated by the evidence or whether they substantially impair the use, market value or safety of a motor vehicle.

(b) Upon receipt of the filing fee of $50.00, the application shall be date-stamped to indicate its acceptance for dispute resolution.

13:45A-26.10 Notification and scheduling of hearings

(a) Within 10 days after the effective date of this subchapter, each manufacturer of motor vehicles sold or leased in New Jersey shall forward to the Division of Consumer Affairs, Lemon Law Unit, the name, address, and telephone number of the person designated by the manufacturer to receive notices under this dispute resolution process. It shall be the duty of the manufacturer to update this information, as necessary.

(b) On the day that an application is accepted for resolution by the LLU, a notice shall be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested by the LLU to the consumer and manufacturer's designee. This notice shall indicate that the consumer's request for resolution has been accepted, and shall provide general information about the resolution process.

(c) The LLU shall immediately thereafter refer an accepted application for dispute resolution to the OAL and arrange a hearing date acceptable to all parties. The dispute resolution shall be conducted as a contested case by the OAL in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, N.J.S.A. 52:14B-1 et seq., the Uniform Administrative Procedure Rules, N.J.A.C. 1:1, and Special Rules, N.J.A.C. 1:13A.

(d) The date of the hearing shall be no later than 20 days from the date of the notice of acceptance unless a later date is agreed to by the consumer.

(e) Notice of the date, time, and location of the hearing shall be mailed by the OAL to both parties.

(f) A copy of the application materials shall be sent by the LLU simultaneously with the notice of acceptance of the application, to the manufacturer's designee. Within 10 days of the notice of acceptance of the consumer's application for dispute resolution, the manufacturer shall mail by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the consumer and to the Clerk of the Office of Administrative Law at 185 Washington Street, Newark, New Jersey 07102, a response to each of the statements set forth in the consumer application.

(g) Applications by the consumer or the manufacturer with consent of the consumer for adjournments or rescheduling of the hearing shall be made in accordance with N.J.A.C. 1:1-9.6.

13:45A-26.11 Computation of refund

(a) The refund claimed by a consumer pursuant to section 4(a) of the Lemon Law, whether through the Division of Consumer Affairs automotive dispute resolution system or a manufacturer's informal dispute resolution process, shall include:

1. The total purchase or lease price of the motor vehicle including finance charges, sales tax, license fees, registration fees, and any stated credit or allowance for the consumer's used motor vehicle, provided that:

i. The full refund of purchase price that may be claimed by a consumer under section 4(a) shall not include any portion of a stated credit or allowance for the consumer's used motor vehicle that grossly exceeds the true value of the consumer's used motor vehicle.

ii. During the Office of Administrative Law hearing, a manufacturer may challenge the stated credit or allowance for the consumer's used motor vehicle. The manufacturer shall bear the burden of proof, and shall provide evidence that the purchase price included a trade-in allowance grossly disproportionate in amount to the true value of the consumer's used motor vehicle. Such evidence shall include, but not be limited to, the value of the motor vehicle as listed in the N.A.D.A. Official Used Car Guide.

2. The cost of any options or other modification arranged, installed or made by the manufacturer or its dealer within 30 days after the date of original delivery.

3. Other charges or fees, including, but not limited to:

i. Reimbursement for towing, if any;

ii. Reimbursement for actual expenses incurred by the consumer for the rental of a motor vehicle equivalent to the consumer's motor vehicle for the period during which the consumer's motor vehicle was out of service due to a nonconformity;

iii. Filing fee for participation in the Division's dispute resolution system; and

iv. Reimbursement for reasonable attorney's fees, fees for reports prepared by expert witnesses, and costs.

(b) From the total sum of the items in (a) above, a deduction shall be made, representing an allowance for vehicle use. This deduction shall be calculated as follows:

1. Multiply the mileage at the time the consumer first presented the motor vehicle to the dealer or manufacturer for correction of the nonconformity(s) in question by the total purchase price of the vehicle (or the total lease price, if applicable), then divide by 100,000 miles.

13:45A-26.12 Final decision

(a) The Director shall review the OAL proposed decision submitted by the administrative law judge who conducts the administrative hearing and shall adopt, reject, or modify the decision no later than 15 days after receipt.

(b) At the conclusion of the 15-day review period, the Director shall mail notification of the rejected, modified or adopted decision to both parties, the lien-holder, if any, the OAL, and, if the vehicle in question is to be returned to the manufacturer, the Special Title Section of the DMV. The mailing to the manufacturer and consumer shall be by certified mail, return receipt requested. Within 45 days of receipt of the final decision, any party may file an appeal in the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

(c) The manufacturer shall advise the Director as to its compliance with the final decision no later than 10 days following the date stated for completion of all awarded remedies.

(d) If the manufacturer unreasonably fails to comply with the decision within the specified time period, the manufacturer shall be liable for penalties in the amount of $5000 for each day the manufacturer unreasonably fails to comply, commencing on the day after the specified date for completion of all awarded remedies.

13:45A-26.13 Appeals

(a) A manufacturer or a consumer may appeal a final decision to the Appellate Division of Superior Court; a notice of appeal must be filed with the Director no later than 45 days after the date of the final decision as defined in N.J.A.C. 13:45A-26.12(b).

(b) An appeal by a manufacturer shall not be heard unless the notice of appeal is accompanied by a bond which shall be:

1. For a principal sum equal to the money award made by the administrative law judge, plus $2500 for anticipated attorney's fees and other costs;

2. Secured by cash or its equivalent; and

3. Payable to the consumer.

13:45A-26.14 Manufacturer's reporting requirements

(a) The LLU shall compile a roster of American and foreign manufacturers of passenger automobiles and motorcycles registered, sold or leased in New Jersey.

(b) Manufacturers who establish or participate in an informal dispute settlement procedure shall within 30 days after the effective date of this subchapter:

1. Advise the LLU of the existence of its informal dispute settlement procedure; and

2. Send the LLU an outline of the steps that a consumer must take in order to participate in the manufacturer's informal dispute resolution procedure; the information shall include all necessary addresses and phone numbers.

(c) On January 15 and July 15 of every year, the LLU shall mail a questionnaire by certified mail, return receipt requested, to every manufacturer on the roster compiled pursuant to (a) above, requesting the following information:

1. Any and all informal dispute settlement procedures utilized by the manufacturer. If the informal dispute settlement procedure is an in-house customer assistance mechanism or private arbitration or private buy-back program instituted by the manufacturer, the information provided shall include the reasons for establishing and maintaining such programs.

2. The number of purchase price and lease price refunds requested, the number awarded by any dispute settlement body or other settlement procedure identified in (c)1 above, the amount of each award and the number of awards satisfied in a timely manner.

3. The number of awards in which additional repairs or a warranty extension was the remedy, the amount or value of each award, and the number of awards satisfied in a timely manner;

4. The number and total dollar amount of awards in which some form of reimbursement for expenses or compensation for losses was the remedy, the amount or value of each award and the number of awards satisfied in a timely manner;

5. The average number of days from the date of a consumer's initial request to use the manufacturer's informal dispute settlement procedure until the date of the decision and the average number of days from the date of the design to the date on which performance of the award was satisfied; and

6. A list of all motor vehicles and their Vehicle Identification Numbers stamped with "R--RETURNED TO MANUFACTURER UNDER LEMON LAW OR OTHER PROCEEDING," which have been reported to the MRS Special Title Section during the previous six months.

(d) Failure of the manufacturer to return the completed questionnaire to the LLU within 60 days of receipt shall be a violation of this subchapter and the Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq.

13:45A-26.15 Index of disputes

(a) The Division of Consumer Affairs shall maintain an index of all motor vehicle disputes by make and model and shall compile and maintain statistics indicating the record of manufacturer compliance with any settlement procedure decisions.

(b) The initial index and statistical record of compliance shall be made available to the public on July 1, 1990 and every six months thereafter.