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(1) Upon receipt of the manufacturer's statement and filing fee, the department shall forward copies of the consumer's request for arbitration and the manufacturer's statement to the appointed arbitrators at lease five days prior to the scheduled hearing date.

(2) Each party at an oral arbitration hearing shall have the right to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, enter objections and assert all other rights essential to a fair hearing.

(3) The chairperson of the arbitration panel shall preside at the arbitration hearing and shall require all witnesses to testify under oath or affirm that their statements are true to the best of their knowledge.

(4) The hearing shall be opened by the recording of the place, time and date, the identities of the arbitrators and parties and counsel, if any.

(5) The consumer shall then present his or her testimony and witnesses, who shall submit to questions by the opposing party and/or the arbitrators.

(6) The manufacturer shall then present its testimony and witnesses, who shall submit to questions by the opposing party and/or the arbitrators.

(7) If good cause is shown, the arbitrators may, at their discretion, vary these procedures. Any variance shall afford full and equal opportunity to all for the presentation of any material or relevant proofs and for the ensurance of all essential rights to a fair hearing.

(8) Exhibits offered by either party may be received in evidence. The names and addresses of all witnesses and exhibits in the order received shall be made a part of the record. The parties may offer such evidence as they desire and shall produce whatever additional evidence the arbitrators may deem necessary to an understanding and determination of the dispute. The arbitrators shall evaluate the relevancy and materiality of the evidence offered by both parties. The arbitration panel shall not be bound by the rules of evidence.

(9) The arbitrators may receive and consider evidence of witnesses not present at the hearing by affidavit, and give it such weight as the arbitrators deem appropriate, after considering any objections made to its submission.

(10) All documents requested by either party, if deemed relevant by the arbitrators, and all documents not filed at the time of the hearing but requested by arbitrators shall be submitted to the department by a specified date and transmitted to the arbitrators in a timely fashion and in no event later than five days prior to the date set for a decision. All parties shall be given an opportunity to examine or request copies of such documents.

(11) The arbitrators may schedule vehicle inspections, if deemed necessary.

(12) The hearing generally shall be completed within one session unless the arbitrators, for good cause and time permitting, schedule any additional hearing(s) . After the arbitrators are satisfied that the presentations are complete, the chairperson of the panel shall declare the hearings closed.

(13) The hearings may be reopened by the arbitrators at will or upon motion of either party for good cause shown at any time before the decision or award is made.

(14) The arbitrators shall, after any necessary consultations among themselves or with a technical expert, render a decision not later than 60 days after the date the department has accepted the consumer's request for arbitration.

(15) Oral arbitration hearings shall be recorded.

(16) At the close of the arbitration hearing, either party may file a request for a written transcript of the proceedings. The party making the request shall be responsible for transcription costs. Any party requesting a copy of the transcript shall be charged for the cost of reproduction. If no request is filed, the department may order that a written transcript be prepared.

History: 61-4-532, MCA; IMP, 27-5-213, 61-4-515, 61-4-519, MCA; NEW, 1998 MAR p. 746, Eff. 3/27/98; TRANS, from Commerce, 2001 MAR p. 176; TRANS, from Administration, 2006 MAR p. 322, Eff. 2/10/06.

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