Most new RV owners complain to their dealer about their RV’s defects. When they have had enough, they complain to the factory too. And all the while the time limit clock for the owner to actually file a formal claim in court is ticking away. Many RV warranties say you have to file a claim at least 90 days before your warranty expires. In some places, you can’t even get your RV in and out of the dealer’s repair shop that quickly. And that’s what’s wrong with telling owners to go through yet one more step in the process of getting their RV complaints taken care of.
So if a manufacturer wants RV owners to either run out of time or get desperate for a solution, what can they do to you? Why, just give you one more waste-of-time step to go through!
But how do they make it sound legit so people will think they’ll get a fair deal and actually try it? Well, have someone else handle it!
So how can the factory make sure the owner’s complaint ends up like they want it to? Well, to start with, just be the one who pays for it. And maybe help them write the rules of the game too. And then put it all out there and say, “It’s independent.”
The RV Dispute Resolution Program
Is that the way the RVIA came up with their newest way to cut off RV owners’ rights? Maybe, just maybe.
A couple of years ago, the industry came up with the idea of creating a private, confidential, secret process where owners could air their complaints and ask for help. But the idea they came up with appears to help the industry more than the RV owners who just want help. The manufacturers could have improved their quality, but they decided to come up with the RV Dispute Resolution Program. So how’s that working out?
The only report on their statistics that has been publicly released is dated 2022, but it shows some disturbing results for RV owners.
Owner complaints rejected
First, 34% of the owner complaints were rejected—they didn’t even get their complaints heard. Why not?
More than half were thrown out because their RV was no longer under warranty. That’s not surprising since it takes so long to discover some defects and then get it into the dealer’s already-busy repair shop to be worked on. And if that doesn’t work out, you spend time arguing on the phone with either the dealer or the factory. Back and forth, back and forth, take it back for more repair work, cross your fingers, and hold your breath.
And all the while the shortened time limit to actually file a formal claim against the RV company is running out on you, many in as little as 15 months after purchase, some as little as 90 days. With most new cars and appliances, you get a four-year time limit to file a claim, but the RV industry knows what’s coming, so they use a somewhat sneaky way of cutting your time back as short as they can legally get away with. It’s the old “you snooze, you lose” game. But the RV owners are the victims.
RV Dispute Resolution Program claims thrown out
Then there are all the other reasons that claims are thrown out:
- If the defect isn’t covered by the factory warranty? Goodbye.
- If the factory didn’t agree to the Dispute Resolution Program? Goodbye.
- If the factory hasn’t already tried to fix it? Goodbye.
- If your warranty was voided for some reason? Goodbye. And don’t bother arguing about it.
And guess what happens next to the 64% of those who do get in the Dispute Resolution door—most of them don’t ever get to a real mediation hearing either. Instead, the factory starts talking to them directly, just like they did before the owner ever went into the Dispute Resolution process, trying to get them to take settlement terms the factory offers. Meanwhile, the clock is still ticking, your time is running out. Tick Tock Tick Tock and your legal rights are dead.
What else do you need to know? Two things
The process is secret. When it does happen, it’s all behind closed doors and you can’t tell anyone anything about it.
The RV Dispute Resolution Program is paid for by the RV manufacturers themselves, sort of like the manufacturers are paying the very people who are going to decide what the manufacturer ought to do for you, all the while knowing that the manufacturer can back out of the program if they don’t like the results. Gosh, do you think that might influence them just a little?
It’s all a lot like the fox guarding the hen house, if you ask me.
More by Ron Burdge, RV lemon law attorney.