Defeating As-Is Clauses

Because Morrow and Artim, P.C. sues a lot of Used Car Dealerships for fraudulent car sales, we see the phrase “As-Is” a lot.  Sometimes, our potential clients will call and tell us everything that is wrong with the car and then say, “But, I bought it as is.”  Or, we will send a letter to the dealership demanding a refund on behalf of our client and the dealership will respond with, “So sorry, your client bought the car as is.”

If you do not already know, an “As-Is” clause is an attempt by a dealership to sell a car to you in its current conditions whether it has defects or not.  If, after buying the car, you discover a huge defect, like frame damage, the dealership will then try to waive your “As-Is” clause in your face as a way avoid liability for selling you an illegal unsafe car.  However, these clauses are not always a strong as everyone thinks they are.  Federal law and Pennsylvania law provides the consumer with three levels of protection as ways to defeat an As-Is Clause.

First, Federal Law requires the “As-Is” clause to be on the window of the car when it is on the dealership’s lot.  This is called the FTC Buyers Guide.  Or, more commonly known as the window sticker.  The dealership is required to place the window sticker in a place where anyone can see it and it must be on the car when you are inspecting it.  The FTC Buyers Guide has big bold letters and a box to check showing you that this vehicle is being sold “As-Is.”

Second, Pennsylvania law requires “As-Is” language to be in the written contract for sale.  With every vehicle purchase, the dealership has to provide you with a written contract.  This may be called the “Purchase Agreement,” the “Buyers Agreement,” the “Automobile Sales Contract,” etc.  It lays out all terms of the sale, the year/make/model of the vehicle, the price, the trade in, the down payment, your name and address, and more.  There is specific language regarding “As-Is” that has to be in there.

Third, if you financed your vehicle, Pennsylvania law now requires the Retain Installment Sales Contract to also contain “As-Is” language.  If you financed your car, you have to have a Retail Installment Sales Contract.  It is not enough to have the window sticker and the “As-Is” language in the purchase agreement.  There must be language integrating the As Is agreement into Retail Installment Sales Contract.

If the dealership missed any of the these three steps, it means that “As Is” clause may not protect the dealership against liability.  However, what does that really gain you?  What most people, and most dealerships, do not know is that the “As-Is” clause only waives the implied warranties.  The implied warranties of fitness for a particular purposes and merchantability are helpful to almost any vehicle lawsuit, but without them, you may still have a strong case.

Even a valid “As-Is” clause does not waive unfair trade practices, fraud, breach of contract, or negligence.  At Morrow and Artim, P.C. we pride ourselves on protecting consumers from unfair trade practices.  Examples of common car cases are frame damage vehicles, vehicles that won’t pass State inspection, or vehicles with prior rental car histories.  It doesn’t matter how strong the “As-Is” clause is, you cannot waive unfair trade practices.

If you think you have been part of a bad car sale, give us a call at 412-823-8003.  You may still have legal recourse even though you bought the case “AS-IS.”

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