LemondAid Victories - Phil Edmonston's Lemonaid guides
 

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Lemon-Aid-inspired Consumer Victories

The following success stories are real...
They were sent in by Lemon-Aid readers.


Website successes

If you or someone you know is able to create a web site, you might consider using this site to attract attention to your plight, pressure the company to settle your claim, or arm yourself with additional information for arbitration or court.

Manufacturers' reactions vary. Dunkin Donuts bought a disgruntled customer's website for an undisclosed amount of money after he set up the site to complain about the lack of real cream for his coffee and solicited the comments of other customers.

In another instance, Ford USA lost its injunction petition to shut down www.blueovalnews.com because it had published what the automaker says were secret documents relating to the company's business plans. Insiders tell me that Ford was particularly incensed over the website's spilling the beans that the 1999 Mustang SVT Cobras had exhaust problems that cut as much as 50 horsepower from the 320 horsepower advertised. Ford had to recall 5,300 Cobras to fix the problem. Pssst! the website's still up and running.


Safety defects get resolved through websites as well

Debra and Edward Goldgehn's 1985 Ford Ranger caught fire and burned completely. The couple's suspicions that it was a factory-related defect were later confirmed by a TV show that reported a series of similar Ford fires. The couple created their own web site called "Flaming Fords" and began amassing an incredible database containing reports of similar fires, class action lawsuits, expert witnesses, and actions taken in other countries. (For example, Ford had already recalled a number of its vehicles in order to fix the problem in Canada.) Shortly thereafter, Ford USA recalled 8.7 million cars and trucks, representing the largest recall ever announced by a single auto manufacturer. Ford says that the Internet pressure (the site has now been taken down) was coincidental and not a factor in its decision to recall the vehicles in the States.

Right, and Elvis is building Fords in Oakville.

Michael Hos, a dissatisfied Acura owner, became fed up with what he felt was Acura's stonewalling of his complaints. Rather than get angry, he got organized and set up a web site called "Acura 1997 CL 3.0L: My Lemon" to collect other owners' comments and list some of the most common Acura problem areas. Within six months, Acura settled. Here's what Hos has to say:

Phil, Hi, remember me? I'm the guy that had the 1997 Acura CL lemon. Well, as it turns out Acura settled with me. I got payoff on the car, my attorney fees taken care of, and I'm walking away with $4000 in my pocket after the experience. I was so glad to get rid of this car you have no idea. I have pulled down my "anti-Acura" website and washed my hands clean of the entire ordeal. I turned in the CL about 2 weeks ago, and my checks should be here next week... ...At any rate, I wanted to say thanks for all your input into the case and the encouragement to continue on. The last few months of driving the car were horrible, I'm glad it's done.

In a follow-up posting:

...As far as my website goes, I think it was a major part of them settling early. I had a counter placed on it which showed them how many people had visited the site. Anyone can set up a web page like mine pretty easily. I have web space on my university's computer, so it was free for me to use. Folks without space should expect to spend about $20 a month for space, or if they have their own e-mail account, web space is usually provided for free. If they don't know how to set up their web page, paying someone to do it will be kinda pricey, a few hundred bucks should cover it. The main thing it needs to have is the counter, and it also needs to be slander free.

I had only facts on my web page as I didn't want to get involved in a slander suit. They also need to register the site with all the major search engines so it comes up when looking for the manufacturer. Submitit.com offers such services for free. Putting in a <Meta> tag into the page also helps move it up the search engines' list of hits. Posting to newsgroups also is helpful. I also wrote to JD Power, NHTSA, Consumer Reports, and any other consumer oriented agency I could think of.

When we settled before going to court, I had to sign the settlement papers saying I would pull down my site. They would not settle with me until I did that. This shows how much power the site can have. I would also put the manufacture's phone number and address on it so viewers of the site can contact the manufacturer.

For the most part everyone who read my site took my side of the story and agreed that Acura should pay up. I did have a few folks that were mad I was slamming Acura, but I wasn't concerned with them. I have about 200 e-mail responses that people have mailed to me over the last few months.

As a side note, I think the only real reason they settled with me, in addition to the page being up, was my attorney. I had 7 charges filed against them in Superior Court. Also keep in mind that I paid nothing for my attorney until after we settled. My bill for him is $1500, but that's included in the settlement. Also, I'm only 23, so anyone can do this if they are persistent.

- Michael Hos

2000 Pontiac Sunfire lease buy-back

Okay, a short narrative. I leased my car June 30, 2000. Began to have problems shortly thereafter. The main one being that when you start the car in the morning put it into first, step on the gas, go about three to four feet and then the car jerks, and it is as if your foot is no longer on the gas, but it really has never moved. Then it goes again, and it does the same thing in second. It moves enough to get you in the middle of traffic, then stops. It almost caused four accidents for me.

I took it to the dealership they said they could not prove the problem and sent me home, I talked with Sales Manager said there was nothing they could do. I took it back to the dealer again, they proved it on another Sunfire and said they did not know how to fix it. Sent me home again. Wrote a letter to owner of dealership and to directors and president of GM Canada, e-mailed main service dept. of GM Canada. Customer Service called, offered no help, said that they would have a fix shortly. Meanwhile, I am driving an unsafe car.

Dealership called said they had fixed the problem on another car, bring mine in to get fixed too. Took it in on a Thursday, got it back Friday "fixed" and took it back Saturday, it was not fixed. Spoke with someone from Atlantic Service department, before I took it in this last time to get it fixed. Went on road test on Tuesday with Head Service person (Atlantic Canada) for GM. Of course the car did not do it. I told her if it did it again that that was the last straw I was bringing it back, it was a simple as that. I took it home, the next day after, it did it twice, called the Head Service person and told her that I was bringing the car back and that I would not be picking it up again. She called back and agreed that GM would buy back the car.

"Goodwill" settlements

The following Lemon-Aid readers got "goodwill" compensation from automakers without going to court. Read their narratives for tips as to what to expect and how you should proceed.

Hi Phil:
Early in the Fall of 98 you helped me with some information regarding a transmission failure in my 94 Ford Taurus wagon. Ford Canada covered half the cost of replacement although the warranty had expired. That still left me with a $1500 bill, which I resented paying on a car with less than 60,000 km. So I sent Ford a letter threatening to get it back through small claims. For several months the small claims forms have sat on my desk but I have never got around to filing a claim. Recently I received a call from Ford Canada asking for further information about my case. They mentioned that they were following up on some cases you had raised. After some back and forth, they have proposed covering an additional 25% of the full cost, which would reduce the damage to me to $750. Sounds to me like a reasonable settlement, especially considering I have delayed court action. Thanks again for your help.
M. S.


Phil;
I've spent the last 2-days at the Ford dealership. The president of the dealership finally agreed to cover the FULL cost of the head-gasket repair (see my email for details). They have also given me a courtesy car for the time my cars going to be in the shop (sometime early next week).

The current recall on what I thought was for "engine mounts" is actually for "sub-frame mounts"; which I had already had done (and paid for!).

p.s: Personally, I want to thank-you for your interest in my situation and for "taking" up my case!!

Dear Mr. Edmonston, I e-mailed you inquiring about our 1993 Mercury Sable Wagon (3.8L) which had undergone head gasket repairs in October of 1998. I received the corresponding dealer service bulletin from you and contacted Ford of Canada. They, of course, denied my claim, stating that they "do not warranty independent diagnoses" (since we had had it repaired at our local independent garage. So I took your advice and proceeded with a small claims court action.

Sure enough, within two days of serving the documents, their lawyer called. He offered me a settlement of $1500.00 (my claim was for approx $1700.00).

Needless to say, I accepted. Thank you so much for your help. I am so appreciative of what you do to help us consumers through the often difficult process of standing up to large corporations. Your advice has been incalculably beneficial.

Good day Phil,
Thanks for the info you faxed me back in early Feb. regarding my Explorer and my debate with Ford Canada & Chomedey Ford about the defective rear seat "release latch" mechanism. It completed very well the info I had picked-up on the Net, in the U.S. (A similar case has been reported in March 1998 and Ford paid for the repairs...)

A while later, I put my complaint in writing for a second time, but this time, with a deadline after which I would get the repair done and take legal action to have my expenses reimbursed.

A few days later, a telephone service operator from Ford Canada (Extended Warraty Program) called me to let me know their position had not changed and they would do nothig to fix my seat; I also stayed firm in my position that we would settle this in court.

I still waited for the 10 days deadline, in case they, or Chomedey Ford would come back...

One day before the deadline, the Service Manager at Chomedey Ford called me to tell me:

 

  • he had reviewed my "fidelity" and costly records (and above average small problems complaints)
  • they had discussed it with Ford's legal counselors
  • they had gone over the "confusing and borderline" interpretation of the warranty's "non covered repairs" section
  • they had come to the conclusion that, as good faith, they would share the repair (parts & labour).

The repair was done, two weeks later, at no cost to me.

To whom it may concern:
My father owns a '93 Chrysler Dynasty. This week Chrysler replaced the transmission controller and transmission fluid at their expense. Earlier the job was estimated to cost $395.95 for the parts and $217.50 for labour.

My father bought the car used a year ago with roughly 61,000 kms on it. At that time the Chrysler warranty had run out and he purchased an extended warranty from GE Capital. For this repair the warranty company wouldn't cover the cost. As a result of the radio program in Calgary where my brother acquired the phone number of Bob Renaud at Chrysler I was able to contact them.

The result of my conversations with Chrysler was a review of my father's case and their decision to repair the problem for him. I commend Chrysler for their integrity in maintaining their product and your organization for making us aware of fresh opportunities for keeping car manufacturers accountable for their products.

Dear Phil:
I heard you on a call-in show on CBC a few weeks ago. I was especially interested in your comments regarding Chrysler’s change of heart re: transmission warranty. My '92 Grand Voyager has had several serious faults, mainly stalling and tranny failures. I have had 3 major transmission failures and many stalling incidents and 2 liftgate prop failures.. I was going to send the history to you but decided to at least contact CC to give them an opportunity to refuse first. I hadn't called CC earlier because of the reputation of no warranty claims after the expiration. The local dealer wouldn't try.

I recently received a recall on the liftgate prop with a Customer Service phone number included. I called to inquire why the failed props wouldn't be covered on warranty if under recall. I replaced both myself. I was told to submit the invoices. In the cover letter I inquired about submitting the invoices for the other problems. Within a few days I received a cheque covering the props along with an invitation to submit the other invoices, by a Mr D.Kenny, Customer Service Manager. I did so on Feb.2/98. I was surprised to receive a call at work from Mr. Kenny within a week. He went out of his way to find my business phone number. He was a most congenial person to talk to explaining that he felt it was better to discuss with me personally the limits of any compensation. He was genuinely sorry for the inconveniences of the problems. The invoices totalled over $5000.

I received a cheque for over $3500. I have been astounded at both the speed and sincerity with which my long standing grievances have been dealt with! Mr. Kennys letter states that he hopes that this settlement will help convince me of the commitment to quality products and customer service. I recently purchased my 4th Voyager, after an '87,'89', '92 and now a '95 AWD, all purchased as used vehicles. My flagging faith in Chrysler's Customer support is much restored! Your service to frustrated car owners is also much appreciated.

Small claims court winners


In the "In the Courts" section of this website you can read some interesting delaminated paint judgments that nail GM's hide to the wall. Now learn what the actual trials are like, told by people like yourself, who have never gone to court before. Their narratives, told below, confirm that although justice doesn't always prevail (or else, O. J. would be in jail), you stand a good chance of winning in small claims court.

Hey Phil:
Well I went to court and while I was giving the evidence the judge was laughing. Not at me but at the attorney. There was no question in his mind that Ford was guilty as hell. I won $1,825.00 to repaint my 1988 Ford Ranger

Mr. Edmonston,
I was recently reviewing an article on www.ihs2000.com/~peel/paint-Internet.htm called Lemon-Aid/ Paint. It was one you wrote and it describes the process consumers can follow to try and obtain financial assistance from the auto manufacturers for paint peel problems. The article referenced (on page 7) a Part Three that discussed "Secret Warranties/Service Tips/ DSBs", a chart on pg. 35 that talked about Ford's internal dealer bulletins, and an Appendix II that apparently had addresses and other information pertinent to ordering DSBs. I could not find any of these things on the web site.

Could you please tell me where I can find this article and the referenced areas in its entirety? Is it in a book you wrote? Or is it published somewhere? I have a small claims court date to sue Ford and need some of this info. Thank you for your help-
rfrabeni@hotmail.com

In a follow-up posting:

Mr. Edmonston,
Thank you for your reply regarding my court case against Ford. I do not have access to a scanner to send pictures, etc. If you would not mind sending your address over e-mail, I would send the photos and any other info ASAP. I have 3 copies of a 200 page binder I put together for the case and would gladly ship one to you. Then you could post whatever parts of it you think would help the most consumers on the web site.

The binders include chronologies of problems, court documents, photos, conversations and phone calls with Ford, and DSBs and other information off of the various consumer advocacy internet sites. Let me know if you are interested. If not, I will send only photos and my court paperwork.

The case was in Monterey County, CA on 7 June 1999. The judge did not give any specific information in his judgment- all it said was that the judgment was for the plaintiff. I do not even know if he looked at my binder. I gave him a posterboard with enlarged photos of the car on it and also compiled a display of graphs I obtained off the internet (these were if reference to the transmission, which I also included in the lawsuit.)

For now, I plan to notify all Ford internet sites of the victory to try and encourage others to take Ford to court. I am also planning to write Alex Trottman, CEO of Ford and send info copies of that letter to the State's Attorney's office, the Center for Auto Safety, NHTSA, and any other pertinent addresses (CAS' Lemon Book offers suggestions on who to write). My goal is to let everyone know that Ford lost a judgment in court. I think this public knowledge could be more damaging to them then the silly $2000 they owe me. I want to make Ford sorry that they did not settle out of court and did not take care of me before I had to take the issue to the legal system.

If you have any other advice on what I can do to spread the word, i would surely appreciate it. Let me know if I can mail you those items. I do not have your address as I do not have the book you mentioned. At any rate, I will stop bothering you with my e-mails after this exchange. Thanks again for everything you have done. It is a great public service!

Phil,
I don't know if you remember me. I'm Bryon Williams in Nanaimo, BC, Can. I contacted you some time ago looking for information on GM's peeling paint problem, to help in our small claims case against GM Canada. You provided me with some very useful bulletins.

I thought you would be interested in the outcome. GM made an offer to settle at the settlement conference of 50% of the cost of repainting if we agreed to repair our own damage and if we agreed to sign a non disclosure document. They offered an alternative of the same except that I could take a $1500.00 credit towards a new GM vehicle or GM lease.

We very strongly disagreed, and I told them that I expected 100% of the repair to be covered by GM. I also said that the offer of a credit was useless as I would not wish to purchase another "piece of junk" from GM and also that "GM does not produce Japanese cars, and therefor, any amount of credit was no good". GM then decided that the case would proceed to court.

The case went to trial on October 27th., 1997, and lasted 3 1/2 hours. I had no difficulty proving a latent product defect, and that I had tried all possible means to get a resolution from GM through all available channels before proceeding to court. GM repeatedly attempted to hide behind technicalities and objected to nearly everything I presented. I had no difficulty getting the objections overuled in every case. They presented an expert witness who turned out to not be an expert in cross examination and was dismissed as a result.

The bottom line is that the Judge ruled in our favour on January 6th. 1998 as follows; At the time we began complaining in Sept., 1994, the car was aprox. 6 years old. We received a quote from a GM dealership in August 1995. The Judge ruled in our favour, and used that original quote as a basis of settlement. He awarded the original quote minus 300.00 for own damage (in error as the quote did not include that damage which was below the side moldings). He then deducted 25% for betterment (an old car with a new paint job is better than an old car with an old paint job), and then added interest from August 1995 to Jan, 1998.

We are not worried about the lost $300.00 and are pleased that we won the case. We believe that the judgment was very fair with the exception of the $300.00. I will fax a copy of the judgment to you in case you wish to use it in your books to help others. The only way GM would accept any actual responsibility was when a Judge forced them to accept it. I am still amazed that they allowed it to go to court and that they wasted so much effort to fight it when it was so clearly their fault! They would not even discuss it with us until they were served with the court documents. By the way, they paid up as ordered on the very last day...

Ford, GM Cited for “Mental Distress”

Canadian courts have become more generous in awarding plaintiffs money for mental distress experienced when defects aren’t repaired properly under warranty.

In Sharman v. Formula Ford Sales Limited, Ford Credit Limited, and Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, No: 17419/02SR, 2003/10/07, Justice Shepard awarded the owner of a 2000 Windstar $7,500 for mental distress resulting from the breach of the implied warranty of fitness, plus $7,207 for breach of contract and breach of warranty. Problems: Windstar sliding door wasn’t secure and leaked air and water after many attempts to repair it. Interestingly, the judge cited the Wharton decision as support for his award for mental distress.

The plaintiff and his family have had three years of aggravation, inconvenience, worry, and concern about their safety and that of their children. Generally speaking, our contract law did not allow for compensation for what may be mental distress, but that may be changing. I am indebted to counsel for providing me with the decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Wharton v. Tom Harris Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac Ltd., [2002] B.C.J. No. 233, 2002 BCCA 78. This decision was recently followed in T'avra v. Victoria Ford Alliance Ltd., [2003] B, CJ No. 1957.

In Wharton, the purchaser of a Cadillac Eldorado claimed damages against the dealer because the car’s sound system emitted an annoying buzzing noise and the purchaser had to return the car to the dealer for repair numerous times over 2½ years. The trial court awarded damages of $2,257.17 for breach of warranty with respect to the sound system, and $5,000 in non-pecuniary damages for loss of enjoyment of their luxury vehicle and for inconvenience, for a total award of $7,257.17.

These two judgments, covering all of Canada and citing Canada’s two largest automakers mean car owners can be awarded far more than a few crumbs from the manufacturers ’table. Incidentally, the latest Lemon-Aids also publish several court decisions that award substantial damages to Ford and GM owners plagued by engine gasket defects.


Copyright 2006