The Arbitration program, established in 1984, provides consumers with a forum through which to resolve warranty problem(s) with motor vehicles pursuant to Sections 4170-4181 of 9 V.S.A.
A consumer may file a Demand for Arbitration to request a hearing after demonstration of reasonable repair, which is usually three unsuccessful attempts or thirty cumulative calendar days out of service within the manufacturer's express warranty. At least the first repair for a "three-times-out" claim must occur within the express warranty.
The final repair attempt is a legal provision that provides an opportunity for the manufacturer to assess and repair the claimed defect(s) to the consumer's satisfaction prior to hearing. The consumer may withdraw from the arbitration process if the repair is acceptable, but would retain the option to request a hearing if the condition recurs, as long as the vehicle is still within the manufacturer's express warranty.
If the consumer is not satisfied with the vehicle after the final repair attempt and continues to hearing, he/she must convince the Board that the defect(s)/condition(s) substantially impairs the vehicle's use, market value or safety. The consumer may continue to hearing even if the claimed condition appears to be fixed. The Board would then weigh the reason(s) for dissatisfaction.
There are five Motor Vehicle Arbitration Board members and three alternates appointed by the Governor for a three-year term. Each may be appointed for additional three-year terms twice. "One member of the board and one alternate shall be new car dealers in Vermont, one member and one alternate shall be persons active as automobile technicians, and three members and one alternate shall be persons having no direct involvement in the design, manufacture, distribution, sales or service of motor vehicles or their parts."(9 V.S.A. Section 4174)
Hearings are usually held monthly. Demands will not proceed to hearing if they are resolved by settlement, acceptance of the final repair attempt, administrative dismissal or other disposition.
The Board has authority to order:
- a pro-rated refund based on a statutory formula with guidelines for reimbursement of fees, incidental and consequential damages, and purchase and use tax,
- a comparable new replacement vehicle,
- in favor of the manufacturer,
- a dismissal, or
- a continuance.