Ontario 'lemon law' introduced by backbencher

Ontario may become the first province to enact a "lemon law" to force car makers to buy back defective vehicles.

Conservative backbencher Rob Sampson introduced a private member's bill, which passed second reading in the Ontario legislature. It now goes to committee for review and would have to pass one more vote to become law.

"We have good auto manufacturers in North America but every once in a while, if and when a lemon car is produced, consumers need some redress," said Sampson. "This is a good way to do it."

Sampson says his bill would help protect car and truck buyers who face a "substantial deficiency" with their new vehicle.

He says consumers would need clear recourse if they buy a new vehicle that can't be fixed.

A defect would have to cause "substantial impairment to the use, value or safety" of the vehicle or cost more than $1,000 to fix.

Sampson says dealers would have three chances to fix substantial problems while the car is still under warranty. After that, manufacturers would have to buy back a defective vehicle or provide an equal replacement at no additional cost.

It would also allow manufactuers to deduct depreciation from the reimbursement payment.

Consumer Minister Tim Hudak said his colleague's proposal appears to have merit. Just about every state in the U.S. has enacted a lemon law.

"Lemon laws do exist in many states," said Hudak. "This is an issue we do get concerns about. We probably all know somebody who has purchased a car that needs considerable repairs."

Hudak points out the province has some consumer protections in place and there is an arbitration panel run by the automakers that tries to resolve complaints. But Sampson says existing provisions aren't enough.

In Canada, consumers can turn to CAMVAP Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan run by Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Porsche, Rolls Royce, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo.

It's a free program that provides neutral third-party arbitration between car buyers and manufacturers over defects.