§ 50-501 Definitions
For the purposes of this chapter, the term:
(1) "Board" means the Board of Consumer Claims Arbitration for
the District of Columbia established by § 50-503.
(2) "Consumer" means the purchaser, other than for purposes of
resale, of a motor vehicle; any person to whom the motor vehicle
is leased or otherwise transferred during the duration of a
warranty applicable to the motor vehicle; and any other person
entitled to enforce the obligations of the warranty. For the
purposes of § 50-503, the term "consumer" means any natural person
who does or would purchase, lease, or receive consumer goods or
services. The term "consumer" includes any natural person who
purchases insurance coverage in the District of Columbia.
(3) "Council" means the Council of the District of Columbia.
(4) "Court" means the Superior Court of the District of
(5) "District" means the District of Columbia.
(6) "Known" means, for the purposes of § 50-505, that a dealer
or the dealer's agent or employee has obtained facts or
information about the condition of a motor vehicle which would
lead a reasonable person in similar circumstances to believe that
the motor vehicle contained 1 or more material mechanical defects.
The term "known" encompasses knowledge obtained through an
inspection, from a previous owner, from the salesperson at an
auction, or through other means.
(7) "Material mechanical defect" means any defect, failure, or
malfunction of the mechanical system of a motor vehicle,
including, but not limited to, the engine, transmission and drive
shaft, differential, cooling system, electrical system, fuel
system, or accessories, which significantly impairs the operation,
safety, performance, or value of the motor vehicle.
(8) "Mayor" means the Mayor of the District of Columbia.
(9) "Motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle which is manufactured
for sale, offered for sale, sold, or registered in the District
and which is designed for the primary purpose of transporting a
driver and 1 or more passengers on streets, roads, or highways.
The term "motor vehicle" shall not include buses sold for public
transportation, motorcycles, motor homes, or motorized
(10) "New motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle which is in the
period of the first 18,000(eighteen thousand) miles of operation
or the first 2(two) years after the date of delivery to the
original purchaser, whichever is earlier.
(11) "Safety-related defect" means an impairment which reduces
the operator's ability to control the motor vehicle in normal
operation or which creates a risk of fire, explosion, or other
(12) "Significantly impair" means to render the motor vehicle
unreliable or unsafe for normal operation or to reduce its resale
value below the average resale value for comparable motor
(13) "Used motor vehicle" means a motor vehicle which is
offered for sale in the District and which is not within the
period of the first 18,000(eighteen thousand) miles of operation
or the first 2(two) years after the date of delivery to the
original purchaser, whichever is earlier; but it does not mean a
motor vehicle sold only for scrap or parts.
(14) "Warranty" means the written or implied warranty of the
manufacturer of a motor vehicle.
§ 50-502 Consumer's remedy for defective vehicles
(a) If a new motor vehicle does not conform to all warranties
during the first 18,000 (eighteen thousand) miles of operation or
during the period of 2(two) years following the date of delivery of
the motor vehicle to the original purchaser, whichever is the
earlier date, the consumer shall during that period report the
nonconformity, defect, or condition to the manufacturer, its agent,
or its authorized dealer. If the notification is received by the
manufacturer's agent or authorized dealer, the agent or dealer shall
within 7(seven) days forward written notice thereof to the
manufacturer by certified mail, return receipt requested. The
manufacturer, its agent, or its authorized dealer shall correct the
nonconformity, defect, or condition at no charge to the consumer,
notwithstanding the fact that the repairs may be made after the
expiration of the first 18,000(eighteen thousand)- mile period of
operation or the 2-year period.
(b) If, after a reasonable number of attempts, the manufacturer,
its agent, or authorized dealer is unable to repair or correct any
nonconformity, defect, or condition which results in significant
impairment of the motor vehicle, the manufacturer, at the option of
the consumer, shall replace the motor vehicle with a comparable
motor vehicle, or accept return of the motor vehicle from the
consumer and refund to the consumer the full purchase price,
including all sales tax, license fees, registration fees, and any
similar governmental charges. In calculating a refund, the
manufacturer may deduct from the consumer's full purchase price a
reasonable allowance not to exceed 10 cents per mile for the
consumer's use of the motor vehicle in excess of the first
12,000(twelve thousand) miles of operation, and a reasonable
allowance for any damage not attributable to normal wear or to the
nonconformity, defect, or condition which significantly impaired the
motor vehicle. Refunds shall be made to the consumer, and the
lienholder, if any, as their interests may appear on the records of
ownership kept by the Department of Public Works.
(c) Each of the following circumstances shall be an affirmative
defense to any claim under this section:
(1) The nonconformity, defect, or condition does not
significantly impair the vehicle.
(2) The nonconformity, defect, or condition is the result of
abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modifications or alterations of
the motor vehicle.
(d) It shall be presumed that a reasonable number of attempts
have been made to conform a motor vehicle to the warranties, if:
(1) The same nonconformity, defect, or condition, if it is not
safety- related, has been subject to repair 4(four) or more times
by the manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer after
notification by the consumer within the first 18,000 miles of
operation or during the period of 2(two) years following the date
of original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer, whichever
is the earlier date, but the nonconformity, defect, or condition
continues to exist;
(2) The same nonconformity, defect, or condition, if it is
safety-related, has been subject to repair 1 or more times by the
manufacturer, its agents, or authorized dealers after notification
by the consumer within the first 18,000(eighteen thousand) miles
of operation or during the period of 2(two) years following the
date of original delivery of the motor vehicle to a consumer,
whichever is the earlier date, but the nonconformity, defect, or
condition continues to exist; or
(3) The motor vehicle is out of service by reason of repair of
any nonconformities, defects, or conditions which significantly
impair the vehicle, on a cumulative total of 30 days or more
during either period, whichever is the earlier date.
(e) The 30-day out-of-service period shall be extended by any
time during which repair services are not available to the consumer
because of a war, invasion, strike, fire, flood, or other natural
(f) The consumer, in order to seek the refund or replacement
provided by this section, shall first submit a claim to the Board of
Consumer Claims Arbitration established pursuant to § 50-503. If the
Board rejects the case for arbitration, or if the claim is
arbitrated and the consumer rejects the arbitration decision, the
consumer may then bring an action in court to seek the remedies
provided by this section.
(1) If a motor vehicle is returned to a manufacturer, its
agent, or authorized dealer pursuant to this section, the
manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer shall notify the
Department of Public Works that the motor vehicle was returned.
(2) The Department of Public Works shall note the fact that the
motor vehicle was returned pursuant to this chapter on any
certificate of title issued for the motor vehicle.
(3) A motor vehicle dealer shall state the fact that the motor
vehicle was returned pursuant to this chapter in any sales
contract for the motor vehicle prior to the signing of the
contract by a prospective purchaser.
§ 50-503 Arbitration
(a) There is established in the Department of Consumer and
Regulatory Affairs a Board of Consumer Claims Arbitration for the
District of Columbia. The Board shall consist of 7 members who shall
be appointed by the Mayor.
(b) The members shall be at least 18 years of age and residents
of the District.
(c) Two members shall be attorneys admitted to the practice of
law in the District, 1 of whom shall be designated by the Mayor as
chairperson of the Board. Two members shall have training and
experience in arbitration and mediation. One member shall be the
Director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs or his
or her designee. One member shall have experience or training in
representing the interests of consumers. One member shall have
experience or training in the manufacture or wholesale or retail
sales of consumer goods.
(d) The Mayor shall appoint the initial Board members within 60
days of March 14, 1985. Of the members first appointed, the
chairperson and 1 other member shall be appointed for terms of 3
years; 2 members shall be appointed for terms of 2 years; 1 member
shall be appointed for a term of 2 years; and 1 member shall be
appointed for a term of 1 year. Subsequent appointments shall be for
terms of 3 years. This subsection shall not apply to the
representative of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
(e) Members of the Board shall be compensated pursuant to §
(f) The Mayor shall issue, and may amend from time to time, rules
and regulations to implement the provisions of this section and may
establish reasonable fees for the filing of complaints.
(g) The Board, in accordance with the rules and regulations
issued pursuant to subsection (f) of this section, shall provide
arbitration for claims filed by consumers against manufacturers,
their agents, or dealers pursuant to §§ 50-502 and 50-505; for
claims voluntarily filed by consumers against the provider of any
consumer goods or services, who agrees to arbitration, pursuant to
rules and regulations issued by the Mayor; and for claims filed
pursuant to § 31- 2405 by parties agreeing to arbitration pursuant
to rules and regulations issued by the Mayor.
(h) Consumers may submit claims to the Board by completing forms
which shall be approved by the Mayor.
(i) Upon receipt of a written claim filed by a consumer, the
Board shall within 5 business days determine whether the claim
qualifies for arbitration pursuant to this chapter and notify the
(j) The Board shall develop and maintain a roster of persons who
are residents of the District, at least 18 years of age, and
experienced in arbitration techniques who may be employed to serve
as arbitrators for specific cases.
(k) The Board shall assign cases for arbitration according to the
(1) A case may be assigned to a single arbitrator if the Board
first informs all parties to the case of the identity and
background of the arbitrator and obtains their consent. When a
case is assigned to a single arbitrator, the arbitrator must be an
attorney-member of the Board or another attorney admitted to the
practice of law in the District and chosen from the roster of
arbitrators maintained by the Board.
(2) All cases not assigned to single arbitrators shall be
assigned to a panel of 3 arbitrators, 1 of whom must be a member
of the Board and 1 of whom must be an attorney admitted to the
practice of law in the District. Participation on the panel by an
attorney-member of the Board shall satisfy both requirements. The
Board shall inform all parties to the case of the identity and
background of the arbitrators tentatively selected for the panel
and shall obtain the consent of both parties to the choice of
arbitrators. The decision of the panel shall be by majority vote.
(l) The Board is authorized to reject for arbitration consumer
claims which are determined by a majority of the Board to be
frivolous, fraudulent, or beyond the legal authority of the Board.
(m) The Board shall promptly assign all cases accepted for
arbitration to an arbitrator or arbitrators who shall appoint a time
and place for a hearing and notify the parties personally or by
registered mail not less than 5 days prior to the hearing. Hearings
shall be public and shall be recorded electronically.
(n) At all arbitration hearings, the parties are entitled to
present oral and written testimony, to present witnesses and
evidence relevant to the controversy, to cross-examine witnesses,
and to be represented by counsel.
(o) The Board may issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses
and for the production of books, records, documents, and other
evidence. The Board or arbitrators designated by the Board shall
have the power to administer oaths and affirmations and take
(p) Upon application by any party to an arbitration proceeding,
or upon its own motion, an arbitrator or arbitration panel may
retain independent technical experts as needed to determine the
facts in the case. The arbitrator or arbitration panel may assign
the costs of the technical experts to 1 or both parties to the case.
(1) The arbitrator or arbitration panel shall determine whether
the defendant is liable to the claimant and, if so, shall award
the claimant relief.
(2) The arbitrator or arbitration panel may award the claimant
the relief provided by this chapter, any relief available under
any other law, and reasonable attorneys' fees. The defendant may
be assessed the costs of arbitration as part of any award rendered
by the arbitrator or arbitration panel.
(3) Decisions of an arbitrator or arbitration panel shall be in
writing and shall be entered by and in the name of the Board.
(4) Decisions shall be entered no later than 60 days from the
date the Board accepts a case for arbitration.
(5) The decision shall state the relief granted, if any, and
shall specify a time limit for compliance.
(6) The board shall promptly provide a copy of the decision to
(r) The Board or any party to a case may petition the court to
issue an order compelling compliance with a decision by the Board.
(1) Any party to a case may, within 20(twenty) days after
receipt of the Board's decision, petition the court to vacate the
decision and grant a trial de novo.
(2) Upon receipt of a petition, the court shall first determine
the validity of the arbitration proceeding and shall vacate an
arbitration award upon a finding that:
(A) The award was procured by corruption, fraud, or other
misconduct in violation of law;
(B) The arbitrator or arbitration panel exceeded its powers;
(C) The arbitrator or arbitration panel failed to conform to
the rules and regulations issued pursuant to this chapter, and
the failure to conform prejudiced the rights of a party to the
(D) The award is based on a numerical error or other error of
fact which the Board has failed to correct.
(3) If the court determines the arbitration process was valid
but grants the petition for a trial de novo on other grounds, the
decision of the Board shall be admissible as evidence and shall be
§ 50-504 Disclosure of rights
(a) The manufacturer, its agent, or authorized dealer shall
provide written notification to the prospective consumer of any
motor vehicle to be sold or registered in the District of the rights
provided to the consumer by this chapter.
(b) The Mayor shall issue rules and regulations prescribing the
form and content of the notification required by this section.
(c) Any agreement entered into by a consumer for the purchase of
a motor vehicle which waives, limits, or disclaims the rights set
forth in this chapter shall be void. These rights shall inure to a
subsequent transferee of the motor vehicle.
§ 50-505 Disclosure of damages or defects in used motor
vehicles; violations; penalties
(a) No motor vehicle dealer may offer for sale any used motor
vehicle without first providing:
(1) Written notice to the prospective consumer of any material
mechanical defect in the motor vehicle and any damage sustained by
the motor vehicle due to fire, water, collision, or other causes
for which the cost of repairs exceeded $1,000, when the defect or
damage was known to the dealer; and
(2) Written notice to the prospective consumer whether the
dealer has conducted any inspection of the motor vehicle to
determine known defects or damage.
(b) A motor vehicle dealer who fails to provide the notices
required by this section or who provides false or misleading notices
shall, upon conviction, be subject to the following penalties:
(1) A fine of not less than $300 or more than $1,000 for a
first offense; and
(2) A fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000, or
suspension or revocation of the license issued pursuant to § 300
of the Vehicles and Traffic Regulations (18 DCMR 300.1 et seq.),
or both, for a second or subsequent offense.
(c) The purchaser of a used motor vehicle shall have a right of
action against a used motor vehicle dealer for damages or injuries
sustained as a result of the dealer's failure to comply with the
requirements of this section. The purchaser, in order to seek the
remedies provided by this section, shall first submit a claim to the
Board. If the Board rejects the case for arbitration, or if the
claim is arbitrated and the purchaser rejects the arbitration
decision, the purchaser may then bring an action in court to seek
the remedies provided by this section.
(d) Violations of this section shall be prosecuted in the name of
the District of Columbia by the Corporation Counsel of the District
(e) Civil fines, penalties, and fees may be imposed as
alternative sanctions for any infraction of the provisions of this
chapter, or the rules or regulations issued under the authority of
this chapter, pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2. Adjudication of any
infraction shall be pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2.
§ 50-506 Listing of odometer readings
The Department of Public Works shall list the odometer readings
at the time of registration or transfer of registration on the title
of all motor vehicles registered in the District.
§ 50-507 Other rights or remedies; limitations on actions
(a) Nothing in this chapter shall in any way limit the rights or
remedies which are otherwise available to a consumer under any other
(b) Any action brought pursuant to this chapter shall be
commenced within 4 years of the date of original delivery of the
motor vehicle to the consumer.
§ 50-508 Rules and regulations
The Mayor shall issue, and may amend from time to time, rules and
regulations to implement the provisions of this chapter.
§ 50-509 Provision for alternative arbitration system
If the arbitration system established pursuant to § 50-503 cannot
consistently handle complaints during the 60-day period as required
by § 50-503(q)(4), and if the administration of the arbitration
system results in expenditures beyond the sums budgeted annually for
the program, the Mayor may certify an alternative arbitration system
that complies with this chapter and rules issued to implement this
§ 50-510 Suspension of enforcement
Notwithstanding any other provision of District law, enforcement
of this chapter by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
is suspended until October 1, 2000.