Does the “lemon law” cover a four-year-old refrigerator?

Kip Anderson’s General Electric refrigerator has suffered a catastrophic failure. But she’s not happy with GE’s resolution — and we don’t think we can help her get a better one.

Her case underscores the value of an extended warranty — as well as understanding the applicable laws. Anderson believed that her state’s “lemon laws” applied to her situation. But they don’t.

“Lemon laws” are U.S. state laws that cover purchases of consumer products, such as appliances and cars, which repeatedly fail according to normal standards of quality and performance. These laws provide buyers of such goods grounds for legal action against the manufacturers of the goods. Each state has its own lemon law.

Anderson and her husband, residents of California, purchased a side-by-side GE refrigerator for $7,647 when they moved into their home in 2013. At that time, they declined to purchase an extended warranty for the refrigerator, which would have provided coverage for the cost of repairing the refrigerator.

“Now we think it would have been a good idea, but as you know, hindsight is 20/20,” says Anderson.

No kidding. A few months after the Andersons purchased the refrigerator, the freezer inside it stopped maintaining its optimal temperature, causing the icemaker to leak and all of the contents of the refrigerator and freezer to spoil. The refrigerator has failed three times since then, each time requiring that the entire contents of the refrigerator and freezer be discarded after spoiling. The motor fan, evaporator fan and motherboard have been replaced more than once.

After the most recent failure, which took six days to repair and cost $453, Anderson asked GE for a full refund of the original cost of her refrigerator and reimbursement of the repair cost. GE offered to replace the refrigerator with another of the same model for $3,000, or an extended warranty on the most recent repairs to her current refrigerator. But it is not willing to issue Anderson a cash refund or reimbursement of the repair costs.

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Anderson isn’t satisfied with GE’s proposed resolution.

“As you can imagine, I am reluctant to have the same thing as what I have since mine has been nothing but trouble,” she says. “I printed out the California Lemon Law and it does appear they have responsibilities, regardless of whether I have a warranty or not.”

But did Anderson read the law correctly?

California’s Lemon Law, the Song-Beverly Act, holds that all goods in the state are sold with an “implied warranty of merchantability”:

(a) “Implied warranty of merchantability” or “implied warranty that goods are merchantable” means that the consumer goods meet each of the following:
(1) Pass without objection in the trade under the contract description.
(2) Are fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.
(3) Are adequately contained, packaged, and labeled.
(4) Conform to the promises or affirmations of fact made on the container or label…

Unless disclaimed in the manner prescribed by this chapter, every sale of consumer goods that are sold at retail in this state shall be accompanied by the manufacturer’s and the retail seller’s implied warranty that the goods are merchantable. The retail seller shall have a right of indemnity against the manufacturer in the amount of any liability under this section.

Anderson feels that her refrigerator is not merchantable because it isn’t fit for the ordinary purpose of a refrigerator and freezer, which is to store food items at preset low temperatures to protect them from spoilage. We don’t disagree with that.

Unfortunately for Anderson, the Song-Beverly Act’s applicability has a time limit:

[In] no event shall such implied warranty have a duration of less than 60 days nor more than one year following the sale of new consumer goods to a retail buyer. Where no duration for an express warranty is stated with respect to consumer goods, or parts thereof, the duration of the implied warranty shall be the maximum period prescribed above.

Since Anderson’s refrigerator is four years old, the window of time for which it was covered by the implied warranty of merchantability has expired. The Song-Beverly Act contains no language that would compel GE to refund the cost of her refrigerator or repairs.

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And Anderson had an entire year after purchasing the refrigerator to seek the protection of the Song-Beverly Act. Alternatively, she could have purchased an extended warranty when she bought the refrigerator.

We’ll put it to our readers:

Should the Andersons accept GE’s offer of either a new refrigerator of the same model at half the cost of the original or an extended warranty on the latest repair cost?

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for

  • finance_tony

    a SEVEN THOUSAND dollar refrigerator??? Holy moly!

    This, though, is unreasonable:
    After the most recent failure, which took six days to repair and cost $453, Anderson asked GE for a full refund of the original cost of her refrigerator and reimbursement of the repair cost.

  • sirwired

    Offering a free extended warranty on the repair seems like a pretty offer to me; after all, they don’t have to do anything at all. She certainly ain’t getting a refund four years later, and she did turn down the purchase of an extended warranty.

    Object lesson: Never spend so much on a home appliance that you are “married” to it. “High End” home appliances are no more reliable under normal conditions than their lower-end counterparts, very often have expensive parts and repairs, and have a purchase price so high that you feel obligated to make those repairs, lest you lose your “investment.” (A $453 repair sounds very much like a ‘sealed system’ problem; if this was a normal fridge, the repair guy would totally be telling you it was time to just Stick a Fork In It, Because It’s Done. I suspect the (often inaccessible) coolant loop was contaminated during the very first repair, and subsequent repairs keep getting chewed up by the byproducts of that initial contamination.)

    If this was a SxS at a purchase price affordable to mere mortals, after repair #2 or so, “*bleep!*-it! This thing’s going to the dump” would have been an easy option to take.

  • Bill___A

    GE – we bring good things to living, we bring good things to life. Really? Sounds like an overpriced machine and a crappy deal.

  • LDVinVA

    I think after the first failure – if it was within a “few months” of purchase it was still under the one year warranty – I would have assumed it was going to be problematic and then purchased the extended warranty. But I agree – holy, moly – $7000+ for a GE?

  • Annie M

    This is like buying a trip, declining travel insurance and breaking a leg a week before they leave and crying because they can’t get a full refund.

    That free extended warranty is what she should have done in the first place. She should take the offer and let it go, it’s the best she’s going to get.

  • Annie M

    The fancier the appliance, the more apt it is to break.

  • greg watson

    I agree with some comments as I paid less than $7500 for a second hand vehicle which still runs perfectly well today. I don’t ( & never have purchased an extended warranty) as I usually purchase name brand products (higher end) & if they malfunction before a reasonable time has expired I contact the company directly ( Toshiba, GM, Best Buy etc. ) & have never failed to get a reasonable out come. Most companies value their reputations & if you are upfront, patient & polite, something good may come out of it. The OP may have felt that every time there was an issue with her fridge the 1 year warranty would automatically be extended from that point forward ( not unreasonable,having owned it for only 4 months).
    Her mistake was in not getting her desired result within the 1st year ( or so ). I have no idea what an extended warranty for a $7600 fridge would be, but it wouldn’t matter to me………they may as well increase the price of the item, upfront, and make the warranty for 5 years. I feel the OP did not take the proper steps early enough to protect herself & eventually put herself into the ‘victim’s’ chair

  • Bill___A

    Yes, it is.

  • Rebecca

    I’m dying to know what it does. I’m picturing it sprouting legs like chef’s tv in that episode of South Park about watching the movie trailer. And the OP chasing after it with a remote, “so I press menu, and then function?” and “now it’s shooting people.”

  • Bob Davis

    We would never buy another GE appliance based on our experience with a dishwasher. Cheap crap.

  • The Original Joe S

    Motherboard? Computerized? Over-engineered ice box! The FIX: SURGE SUPPRESSOR!

    Had a stove where the display started chiming at 0200 hours “F1” or “F2”; can’t remember which . I guess it means “FOUL-up 1”. Repaired for $250. Then again! Figured it out: a COMPUTER – failed due to the crap electric power from the power company. Got a New stove and bought a SURGE SUPPRESSOR which I installed between the wall and the stove. Never again a problem.

    Anything has a computer controller in it should be surge suppressed! Whole house suppressor can also be installed in the circuit breaker panel, and you can use additional ones for added safety on each item.

    Dishwasher – computer controlled: running; the totally reliable electric company juice failed. Started generator. Did NOT open dishwasher door to stop cycle – mistake! Engaged generator. BOLT from generator thru CB panel TO Surge Suppressor before dishwasher FRIED CB in panel, and blew up suppressor before dishwasher. No damage to dishwasher. Cost to fix: About $4 for new circuit breaker, and about $24 for new surge suppressor. Not $600 for a new dishwasher. Surge Suppressors: CHEAP insurance. GET YOURS TODAY!.

    Had a friend in Thailand who had a big flat TV which, at that time, was about $8000. Surge blew it up. He got it repaired. “Didja get a suppressor for $10?” “Nah.” BANG! AGAIN! You can’t fix stupid……..

  • The Original Joe S

    Got a good coffee machine from a reputable company thru Costco. Costco warrants most stuff you buy. Of course it’s plugged into a surge suppressor. I get the small cheap ones from Microcenter for about $3 per, and use ’em on everything. For the important items, get a $24 one.
    Well, this machine had a flapper lever on front: down for espresso, and up for wussified American-type dishwater weak juice. Well, there must be an optical sensor in it, not a switch, and it failed. Costco replaced. AGAIN. Called the company in Canader [for those of you who remember Fred Gwynn ], and got a friendly kid who told me “DUMP THAT MODEL AND GET THIS OTHER MODEL”. Translation: That model was no good. Got the other model. No flapper. And it automatically runs a shot of water thru the brew group to clean it out. AND it NAGS you to de-calcify it every month. Kid told me to use Half a bottle – enough. Bed Bath – a coupla bucks with the coupons. Other machine required tablets to de-coffee-oil; not the new one. Kid also told me that filter in machine not required as I have water filter on sink – enough. Find a aerosol can of food-grade white grease. Spray it on; easier than tube. Found a place on line sells them; gotta buy 3 or 4 to make a shipment, so I’ll get ’em and give to my kids too.

    Happy brewing! Dag! Time for another one!

  • Shirley G

    One should NEVER get an extended warranty. However, one should ALWAYS pay with a credit card that extends the warranty that comes with the product. And I would have acted much sooner. If something is defective (esp. at this price), I would have filed a dispute with credit card, contacted the attorney general in my state, contacted GE’s CEO, etc.
    However, caveat: I would never pay this much for a fridge. Seriously, what does this thing do?

  • Jason Hanna

    That’s probably a bad assumption in today’s world. Things, in general, tend to either fail in the first few months, or run for a long time. You put something in and it fails a month later.. Yeah, it happens. If it makes it past that first month of having power running through it 24/7.. You’re probably good.

    I have a Phillips TV that I bought in 2007 or so.. 2 months after I bought it, power supply in it failed. Had it repaired, under warranty, and it’s still sitting here running now.

  • joycexyz

    I didn’t know GE had a fridge costing that much! For that price, it should unpack the groceries, put everything away, and hand you the ingredients when you’re ready to use them.That said, after 4 years lemon laws no longer apply.

  • joycexyz

    When our KitchenAid dishwasher needed repairs (out of warranty) the repairman advised us to buy low-end appliances and consider them disposable. A sad commentary on the lack of quality.

  • sirwired

    Speaking for myself, I choose to DIY most repairs. There are certain things I can’t tackle (e.g. the parts of a fridge that actually handle refrigerant), but Google and YouTube easily direct people for most common fixes.

    Certainly it’s foolish to dispose of an entire appliance if all it needs is an inexpensive part, a YouTube video, and an hour or less of time. For instance, you might be reluctant to pay a repair service $150 or so to fix a 15-yr-old gas oven that won’t heat right, but 90+% of the time, it’s the glow ignitor, which takes $15-$20 for the part, standard hand tools, and about fifteen minutes. Failure-prone icemakers aren’t necessarily cheap (sometimes over $100), but are also easy to replace. There’s belts, solonoids, and even pump assemblies that simply wear out over time, but can keep an appliance going for many more years of service if replaced.

  • joycexyz

    There are some appliances that are easier for a DIY-er to repair than others. A dryer, for example, is very simple, and my husband can tackle it without a problem. Refrigerators, however…That’s the only appliance that we buy an extended warranty for. Also, it’s the most expensive appliance.

  • sirwired

    Refrigerators look intimidating, but they actually aren’t as bad as commonly thought. Yes, if the sealed system fails, it’s time to put a proverbial fork in it, ’cause it’s done. But most failures are things like the icemaker, fans, defrost system, water valves, etc., which really aren’t any different from fixing any other appliance. Some quality time with an electrical meter and included the tech sheet can narrow down most problems. (And sealed-system failures are usually easy to spot without professional help; they have very distinct symptoms.)

    Pro Tip: To help a fridge last as long as possible, it’s important to clean the condenser coils with a vacuum on a regular basis, especially if you have furry pets. An insulating blanket of dust bunnies and/or pet fur makes the whole box work harder, and the condensor fan does a wonderful job of pulling that stuff in through the intake.

    (The coils are usually underneath the fridge, and must be cleaned from the front AND back. The best way to pull a heavy SxS or French Door fridge forward to get behind it is to simply open the doors and use the handles to pull it away from the wall; unless you have ceramic floors, you’ll need to overcome the “dent” it makes in the floor.)

  • joycexyz

    Thanks for the advice.

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