I bought a home gym set up about five months ago. Basically, it’s been broken since about a month after I got it. It’s totally under warranty and the company has sent out repair people. But they never seem to be able to fix it. Mostly because they’re independent contractors who don’t really know what they’re doing. At this point we’re at a stalemate. The company says they’ve done every thing they can do and won’t do any more. Don’t they have to honor their warranty? What should I do to get some results?
– Curtis, Virginia
The manufacturer SHOULD have to fix your Thighmaster, or whatever it is you bought. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. With a little tenacity, though, I think you’ll be able to get some results.
First thing, know that warranties are generally really complicated documents – full of disclaimers and conditions. So the manufacturer of the gym may have actually done everything the warranty says they have to. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re totally off the hook.
If the fine print releases them from responsibility, then they might still be in violation of consumer protection laws for false or deceptive sales practices.
I would suggest going after them on a couple of fronts. First file a complaint with the state attorney general’s consumer protection bureau. They’ll review your case and try to mediate a solution. They also, sometimes, sue on behalf of consumers. However, that doesn’t happen too often.
Don’t file with your state’s AG office, instead go through the one from the state where the company has its U.S. headquarters. They’ll have a much better chance of getting results.
Second, you can always file a suit in your local small claims court. Sue for the price of the equipment. Again, the fine print in the warranty might enable them to stop the suit. But they’ll HAVE TO respond. Otherwise you’ll get a default judgment.
Finally, while all of this is going on, keep at it directly with the company. Continue calling and writing and demanding they fix their product. And let them know about your actions with the AG’s office and small claims court. The fact that you’re taking action might just give you enough bargaining power to prevail.
C.L. Lindsay III is the founding executive director of CO-STAR, the Coalition for Student & Academic Rights, and author of the book "The College Student’s Guide to the Law: Get a Grade Changed, Keep Your Stuff Private, Throw a Police-Free Party and More!" in bookstores now. CO-STAR is a network of lawyers, professors and students who work to protect academic freedom and constitutional rights at college campuses nationwide. If you have a question for CO-STAR, log on to their Web site at www.co-star.org.
The material in this column addresses general legal issues only; is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such; and may or may not be appropriate to a specific situation. Laws and procedures change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. This column is not intended to create, and does not create, a lawyer-client relationship and is not intended to be a substitute for legal counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.
© 2006, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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