Using the NYS Arbitration Program
The New York Program's dispute resolution process can be summarized in ten steps as follows:
1 - Consumer's Completion of Request-for-Arbitration Form
2 - Attorney General's Review
3 - Request for Filing Fee by Administrator
4 - Filing Date; Appointment of Arbitrator; Schedule of Hearing
5 - Notice of Claim Sent to Dealer; Dealer's Response; Consumer's Reply
6 - Pre-Hearing Discovery
7 - Hearing
8 - Decision
9 - Administrator's Review of Decision Form
10 - Modification and Appeal
Step 1. Consumer's Completion of Request-For-Arbitration Form
A consumer can seek redress under the New York Program by obtaining a "Request-for-Arbitration" form from the Attorney General's website: www.ag.ny.gov. or any office of the Attorney General. The consumer completes and returns this form, together with copies of all relevant supporting documents (including the bill of sale, repair work orders and any correspondence relating to the claim) to the Attorney General's New Car Lemon Law Unit located at 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10271.
Step 2. Attorney General's Review
The form and documents are reviewed promptly by the Attorney General's Lemon Law Unit. The review is for screening purposes only --to determine whether the claim may be heard by an arbitrator. For example, to be eligible for acceptance into the New York Program the car must have been purchased or registered in New York State. Based on this review, the Request-for-Arbitration form is either accepted or rejected. If rejected, the form is returned to the consumer with a letter indicating the reason(s) for the rejection. In many instances, a consumer is able to correct the cause for rejection and successfully resubmit the form. If the form is accepted, the consumer is advised in writing that the matter is being forwarded to the Administrator for further processing.
Step 3. Request for Filing Fee by Administrator
Upon receipt of the form, the Administrator writes to the consumer to request the payment of the filing fee. If, after 30 days, the Administrator has not received the filing fee from the consumer, it sends a second notice. If the fee is still not received within another 30 days, the Request-for-Arbitration form is returned and the consumer is advised that the case has been closed.
Step 4. Filing Date; Appointment of Arbitrator; Schedule of Hearing
The date the Administrator receives the filing fee from the consumer is considered the case "filing date." This date marks the official beginning of the arbitration process. At this juncture, the Administrator appoints an arbitrator and schedules a hearing for a specific date no later than 35 days from the "filing date." Oral-in person hearings are scheduled to accommodate the needs of the consumer, both geographically and as to time-of-day. The consumer elects on the Request-for-Arbitration form the most convenient site for the hearing from the over-50 locations available.
Step 5. Notice of Claim Sent to Dealer (and Third Party, if any); Dealer Responds; Consumer's Reply
Within five days of the filing date, the Administrator sends a copy of the consumer's Request-for-Arbitration form, together with all attachments, to the manufacturer's designated contact person. If the car was financed or leased, the finance company or bank to which the consumer makes his or her payments or the leasing company is also notified of the consumer's claim and of the scheduled hearing date and is requested to submit relevant financial information prior to the hearing date. The manufacturer is given 15 days from the filing date to respond to the consumer's claim. If the consumer requested a hearing on documents only, the manufacturer may object and an oral hearing will be scheduled. The Administrator mails any response received to the consumer, who may reply before day 25. The Administrator mails a copy of the consumer's reply, if any, to the manufacturer.
Step 6. Pre-Hearing Discovery
Prior to the hearing, either party may request the arbitrator to direct the production of specified documents (such as repair orders) or information, or request that a witness be subpoenaed. Under the regulations, an arbitrator may draw a negative inference concerning any issue for which documents or witnesses were requested but not provided.
Step 7. The Hearing
At the hearing, the consumer presents evidence and then the manufacturer presents its evidence. Each party, as well as the arbitrator, may question the other party or any witness. The arbitrator administers an oath or affirmation to each individual who testifies. Formal rules of evidence do not apply and each party is afforded a full and equal opportunity to present his or her case. Typically, a hearing lasts between one and two hours. The arbitrator has the discretion to examine and/or ride in the consumer's car, and both parties are afforded the opportunity to be present and accompany the arbitrator on any examination or ride.
Step 8. The Decision
Regardless of the type of hearing -- oral (in person) or on documents only -- the arbitrator must render a decision within 5 days following the hearing date (unless additional time was allowed for the submission of requested documents) which is to be no more than 40 days from the filing date. Each decision must be signed and certified by the arbitrator, contain a summary of both the issues in dispute and the evidence presented by each side, include the arbitrator's findings and indicate whether or not the arbitrator, based on the stated findings, found that the consumer qualifies for relief under the lemon law. If the arbitrator finds that the consumer is entitled to relief, the arbitrator must award either a refund or a comparable replacement vehicle, depending on what the consumer requested. The decision must contain a calculation of the award, where applicable, in accordance with the law, taking into consideration, for example, any allowable deductions for excess mileage. A refund of the prescribed filing fee must also be included as part of every award in favor of the consumer. The manufacturer must comply with the award within 30 days.
Step 9. Administrator's Review of Decision Form
Once rendered, the decision is sent to the Administrator which reviews it for technical completeness and accuracy and to eliminate arithmetic or typographical errors. The Administrator must obtain the approval of the arbitrator for any corrections. Once finalized, the Administrator mails copies of the decision to each of the parties and the Attorney General's Office within 45 days of the filing date. The date of mailing becomes the official date of issuance from which the 30-day period for compliance begins.
Step 10. Modification and Appeal
Where a party believes a mistake was made, he or she may seek a modification within 20 days of the receipt of the award. Such a request for modification must be acted upon by the arbitrator within 30 days. The grounds for modification are limited by law (CPLR §7511(c)). The decision is binding on both parties but may be subject to judicial review as permitted pursuant to CPLR Article 75. Either party may commence a court proceeding to vacate or modify an award within 90 days of its receipt (CPLR §7511(b)).