Problems with new cars are not uncommon, but most tend to be minor and easily resolved. However, there are instances where buyers end up with a dud, where all attempts at rectification have proved fruitless, leaving the buyer with no other choice but to seek legal recourse.

Such action is happening with greater regularity. From January to August this year alone, more than 1,000 cases involving new as well as used cars were taken to the Tribunal for Consumer Claims Malaysia, the New Straits Times reports.

According to domestic trade and consumer affairs (KPDNHEP) minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi, a total of 1,126 such cases, involving claims worth RM3.68 million, were filed during the period. Of these, 1,034 cases had been resolved, with 92 still pending.

He said that given the high number of cases, the government was looking at protection similar to the “lemon law,” which would provide vehicle buyers who end up with defective vehicles with an avenue for redress.

“There were proposals for Malaysia to come up with laws similar to the lemon law. At the ministerial level, we have discussed the matter and have received input from the industry players. They said they liked the idea of the lemon law,” he said.

A lemon law is a remedy for purchasers of cars and other consumer goods to compensate for products that repeatedly fail to meet standards of quality and performance. It would require defective cars to be repaired or replaced, and a consumer may request for a reduction in price or get a refund.

Singapore, for example, has such a law in place. It allows consumers to make a claim for defective products purchased within six months. Sellers of defective product have to repair, replace, refund or reduce the price of the defective product, with repairs or replacement being carried out within a reasonable time. Consumers can ask for a price reduction or return the product for a refund if seller fails to repair the product.

Speaking on the same topic, Federation of Motor and Credit Companies Associations of Malaysia (FMCCAM) president Datuk Tony Khor said a lemon law such as those enforced in other countries would provide extra protection for consumers.

He said that such a law would boost the confidence of people in purchasing more used cars in the future. “If there are manufacturing defects, the suppliers must be held responsible for fixing it.Unfortunately, the responsibility currently falls on the car dealers since we do not have a lemon law here,” he explained.

Calls to enact a lemon law to protect car buyers have been made in the past, but like with most things, nothing has come out of it. Will it finally happen, or will we still be talking about it five, 10 years down the road?