Friday, February 9, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Legal recourse limited in state for remorseful buyers of autos

You sign the contract, you own the vehicle.

That's the law in Washington, regardless of how much remorse you might feel the next day.

An obscure exception to the law does allow consumers to cancel contracts within three days if the contract calls for installment payments. But the exception applies only to door-to-door or phone solicitations, or sales that occur away from the seller's regular place of business.

So, for example, a person who buys a car at a tent sale on installment payments could cancel the contract within three days, according to Kristin Alexander, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office.

A buyer also has a legal right to return a vehicle for a refund if it's unsafe to drive, she said.

The Attorney General's Office publishes tips on negotiating a car deal, and also negotiates complaints for auto customers who do not get satisfactory responses to their complaints from dealerships. For information about the complaint process, and information on consumer issues related to car buying, go to

To file a complaint against a car dealer, call 800-551-4636, or for the hearing impaired, 800-833-6384 (WA Relay Service). Complaints also can be filed online at

The Better Business Bureau also accepts complaints against auto businesses at and allows customers to search complaint information about companies. The BBB also answers questions via phone at 206-431-2222 or 253-830-2924.

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company


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