Executive Director’s Commentary
By Don Eversmann, F240000, Executive Director
I am pleased to announce that there is now a suggested motorhome-specific lemon law. This draft document is available to state legislatures that are considering revising their laws to improve existing coverage, or to provide coverage where none exists. Many states do not have lemon laws that cover motorhomes. Some have laws that cover only the chassis and not the house portion of the vehicle. This new suggested law relates to both.
In 2006 FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee, chaired by Max Durbin, F76454, recommended that FMCA become a subscriber to the International Association of Lemon Law Administrators (IALLA). IALLA is an organization of government and other officials from the United States and Canada whose mission is “to support and promote the role of government agencies at the state/provincial, territorial and national levels responsible for ensuring an honest, safe, informed marketplace” and to promote consumer and business responsibility in a competitive economy. FMCA participated in a work group created by IALLA to draft a motorhome-specific lemon law.
FMCA representatives participated in a formal meeting of the work group that took place in Atlanta, Georgia, in June 2008. FMCA presented an association position statement (developed by the Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee and approved by the Executive Board) regarding the initial draft of the proposed motorhome-specific lemon law. In that draft, FMCA identified specific items that we believed had to be considered; these eventually became part of the final document. The meeting was a collaboration of lemon law administrators from several states, members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, RV manufacturer representatives (motorhome and chassis), and representatives from major RV consumer organizations.
During this meeting, several conference call meetings, and a subsequent formal meeting held in Sacramento, California, in September 2008, there was a considerable amount of give-and-take as each group tried to make sure that the interests they were representing were being given adequate protection in the draft. Obviously, none of the stakeholders got every issue resolved in their favor, and it was interesting to see the compromise that was able to be reached in order to protect all concerned.
While representing the consumer, it still was important to be sure that the companies that make the motorhomes we all enjoy are protected from unreasonable claims on the part of owners. FMCA routinely acts as an ombudsman in customer service cases involving concerned members and commercial entities. The association is, therefore, uniquely qualified to represent the interests of motorhome owners regarding a suggested lemon law for motorhomes.
Considering the magnitude of the project and the interests that would have to agree to make this initiative a reality, at first it appeared to be a daunting challenge. However, the end result is that the owners’ interests seem to have been well represented. It would seem the group was successful in arriving at a suggested motorhome-specific lemon law that, if adopted by state legislatures where coverage is lacking or nonexistent, will be a godsend to those who might experience a less-than-acceptable product.
FMCA’s position was pretty clear: a vehicle should be expected to reasonably perform to the standards for which it was designed and marketed. The term “intended use” was important in our discussion of why certain deficiencies must be considered in the application of a level of acceptable service.
This initiative was an extensive effort on the part of not only the RV industry and its consumers but also some outstanding representatives of state governments whose efforts on a daily basis are intended to protect the interests of the consumer. The unanimous vote of the IALLA Executive Board on May 13, 2009, accepting the completed “Suggested Motorhome-Specific Lemon Law” document is a testament to the efforts and results of this work group. Following is part of the preamble to the report that was presented to the IALLA Executive Board:
“The Recreation Vehicle (RV) Initiative was a project undertaken by members and subscribers of the International Association of Lemon Law Administrators (IALLA) to draft a motorhome-specific ‘lemon law.’ The project began in 2007. The Association recognized that existing state lemon laws, primarily enacted to address consumer hardships resulting from nonconforming new motor vehicles, did not effectively address, or address at all, the unique problems associated with nonconforming motorhomes. Specifically, motorhomes have components not common to cars and trucks, and generally are produced as a result of manufacture and assembly by multiple manufacturers, each of which may provide separate consumer warranties.”
The new suggested motorhome-specific lemon law should be a significant step in the protection of owners of new motorhomes, and as states enact this proposed legislation, more of us will be helped with specific guidance on how to deal with and document/report situations that are not acceptable in the performance of a new motorhome.
For additional information, visit the IALLA Web site (www.ialla.net).