TheAdvocate
BoatUS Consumer Protection Bureau

 

If You Have A Problem,
We Have A Solution

By Charles Fort
Published: June/July 2013

Misunderstandings between consumers, manufacturers, dealers, and service providers happen all the time. BoatUS Consumer Protection has several services that can help resolve disputes. The best part? They're free for members.

Consumer Protection Database

How To Use It: Go to the website (see sidebar) and enter the company name to find out how manufacturers, dealers, brokers, or other marine service companies have responded to complaints, or to see if there have been problems with a specific boat or engine model. You'll also find service bulletin information, as well as kudos when a member wants to share good news about a company.

BetterBOAT

Over the years, we have strived to improve relations between consumers and the marine industry, which is why we established the BetterBOAT dispute-resolution program. BetterBOAT is a cooperative effort between BoatUS, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA). It relies on a panel of peers to get especially-complex complaints resolved — without going to court.

How To Use It: The BetterBOAT program is best suited for serious problems involving new boats and motors, with companies that are members of NMMA (most major boat and engine manufacturers). Complaints received from the Dispute Mediation online complaint form will automatically be placed in the BetterBOAT program if they meet these criteria and BoatUS has not been able to resolve the dispute through the normal Dispute Mediation Program.

Recall Database

In the past, the U.S. Coast Guard couldn't force a company to issue a recall for a serious safety issue if the problem occurred more than five years after the date of manufacture, but that timeframe was recently increased to 10 years. That means that some second and even third owners might not get notification from the manufacturer about a recall. Our recall database puts that information at your fingertips.

How To Use It: New recalls are posted online (see sidebar for links) and all other U.S. Coast Guard recalls are posted at the Coast Guard's site, along with an archive that goes back for years. Recalls can be searched by manufacturer, boat model, and year.

Consumer Guides

Consumer Protection has two valuable guides to help you buy and sell a boat, and to help you learn how to find marine services.

How To Use It: Our 34-page Buying and Selling Guide is full of tips on how to get the best deal and how to protect your investment. Learn about marine surveys, transferring ownership, sales agreements, and lots more. It's available online (see sidebar for links to both). Our Guide to Marine Service has everything you need to know about boat brokers, marinas, manufacturers, and mechanics, as well as information on extended service contracts, boat liens, and transporting your boat overland.

Message Board

The BoatUS Consumer Q&A forum is well-known for providing answers to consumer questions. Consumer Protection actively monitors and participates in the forum.

How To Use It: The forum is a less formal way of getting consumer advice, for BoatUS members only, and it requires a quick registration. Post a question and we'll look into it; other members may offer helpful advice, too. The forum has a valuable archive that allows you to search for consumer issues going back for years.End of story marker

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