A Look Ahead: Uncharted Territory for Lemon Laws and Privacy

Oct 11, 2022 by Juan Herrera, Vice President, Dispute Resolution Programs, BBB National Programs

For the past four decades, BBB AUTO LINE has been helping consumers and automakers resolve vehicle warranty and lemon law disputes without costly and time-consuming litigation. And while we can’t predict what is to come in the next 40 years, especially given the warp speed of technological advances, we can use our experience partnering with top automakers, informing legislators, and supporting consumers to share thoughts about challenges that likely lie ahead. 

The future of BBB AUTO LINE will likely be impacted by the answers to these three questions: 

  • Can lemon laws keep pace with radical changes in the way vehicles operate? 
  • What is the true impact of new regulations governing vehicles?
  • How will evolving data privacy concerns presented by connected cars be addressed and resolved? 

 

1. Can lemon laws keep pace? 

In many ways, the future is now in the world of automotive manufacturing. Technology is fueling significant innovation as electric, automated, and connected vehicles continue to advance. Automakers are racing to develop artificial intelligence and self-driving technologies to help build and operate vehicles. New eco-friendly inventions in response to pollution are on the horizon, and car-sharing alternatives are picking up steam.  

When state lemon laws began to be enacted in the 1980s, legislators did not anticipate the technological features of vehicles today or the unique ways that consumers would be utilizing vehicles for travel. While there have been some incremental policy changes, lemon laws overall haven’t been updated along with the industry. As the complexity and novelty of technology and software becomes an even more integral part of driving in the coming years, lemon laws enacted by most states have yet to catch up. 

So, what will the future of warranty disputes and lemon laws look like?  

Let’s start with electric vehicles (EVs), which appear on their way to becoming the future of the automotive industry. EVs bring with them unique components, such as extended battery warranties, which have led to more complex warranty disputes such as diminishing battery capacity issues. Also, the time limits for filing a lemon law dispute will likely be much shorter than the warranty for the battery.  

In addition, supply chain issues have made it difficult in some instances to remedy warranty issues on a timely basis. With increased demand, necessary parts may be unavailable, which could result in more warranty disputes due to the increased number of days the vehicle may be out of service.  

As the industry trends to a fully EV market, state legislatures may have to revisit existing lemon laws as they relate to the expanded warranties and non-traditional repairs such as “Over the Air” software updates.   

And what happens when cars drive themselves? Autonomous driving features are being added to more vehicles every year, taking control away from drivers. Currently it’s unclear what role lemon laws should play for autonomous vehicles.  

Throughout our history of working with manufacturers in providing alternative dispute resolution, we analyze trends to try to anticipate future problems that consumers and manufacturers may face. One such action has been our working with some manufacturers to expand their alternative dispute resolution program to match the warranty coverage of the battery.  

 

2. Will industry regulations become more complex?  

Just as technology will undoubtedly increase the complexity of lemon law litigation, so too will it impact regulations affecting the auto industry. From rules governing self-driving cars and recycling batteries, to telecom and data collection, we can expect auto makers to face an increase in regulations for vehicles.  

Many of the regulations will be in new areas that automakers have not had to deal with in the past. Working with specialists from sectors that have witnessed similar disruption or regulatory shifts may be necessary. 

Automakers are already facing more stringent vehicle emissions and fuel economy requirements that address environmental concerns and impact vehicle warranties. In some instances, states are adopting their own emissions standards, potentially stricter than federal guidelines, such as the California Air Resources Board Advanced Clean Cars II proposal

Understanding how regulations impact automakers and consumers has been a key component of the BBB AUTO LINE program since its inception. Our dedicated dispute resolution staff will continue to stay on top of all factors to help facilitate efficient and fair settlements for both parties. 

 

3. How will privacy be protected in connected cars?  

Vehicles today are as much computers as they are modes of transportation and, just like computers, they can collect vast amounts of personal information. BBB AUTO LINE and BBB National Programs are monitoring privacy concerns with connected cars, including how in-vehicle data is collected, stored, shared, and used.  

What are lawmakers doing? 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are working in tandem on privacy issues related to connected and automated motor vehicles. They have recommended the development of systems that guard against cyber-attacks and protect consumer privacy. 

What are automakers doing?  

Meanwhile, auto manufacturers are creating built-in security systems that allow car owners to manage data collected and consent to its use, introducing encryption technology to protect personal data. 

What else needs to be done? 

A dedicated regulatory framework, or a standardized industry self-regulation program, may be necessary to help enforce robust privacy standards in vehicle manufacturing.

 

The Road Ahead

We look forward to our next 40+ years – to the changes that will shape the future, as well as to what we know will stay constant: our mission to serve as a neutral, mutually trusted intermediary that facilitates conversation and settles disputes between consumers and auto manufacturers without litigation.

BBB AUTO LINE is one of the largest and longest-running dispute resolution programs in the United States. For the past 40 years, we have helped consumers and businesses resolve vehicle warranty, lemon law, and class action disputes in a hassle-free, timely, and cost-effective manner. We look forward to continuing our work for the next 40 years and beyond.

To learn more about BBB AUTO LINE, or to open a claim, go to bbbautoline.org, or call us at 1-800-955-5100.   

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