NJ AG & state agency penalize 3 dealer groups
A trio of dealership operations in the Garden State are set to pay hefty penalties for alleged violations of advertising, warranties and other financing and retailing matters.
Last week, New Jersey acting attorney general Matthew Platkin and the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs announced separate settlements totaling nearly $400,000 with the dealerships for alleged consumer protection violations.
According to a news release, the alleged violations involving Open Road Auto Group, Glen Motors and Lynnes Dealerships included:
— Failing to disclose prior accident history
— Deceptive advertising
— Failing to honor vehicle warranties
— Failing to list vehicle prices on sales documents
— Charging consumers for certain fees twice
— Failing to itemize aftermarket products or dealer-installed options
— Failing to obtain consumer signatures on all sales documents
— Accepting incomplete credit applications from prospective buyers
In addition to paying civil monetary penalties, state officials said the dealerships agreed to refrain from engaging in any unfair or deceptive acts or practices, comply with all applicable state and federal laws and resolve consumer complaints.
“Dodging illegal practices should be the last thing New Jerseyans have to worry about as they search for a vehicle in this challenging market,” Platkin said in the news release. “These settlements demonstrate our commitment to protect consumers and ensure transparency in the state’s auto market.”
Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs Cari Fais added, “The Division has a duty to protect New Jersey consumers by ensuring dealerships live up to their promises. In addition to providing relief to affected consumers, these settlements make clear that we will not tolerate car dealerships that disregard our laws and regulations.”
Settlement involving Open Road
Officials said Open Road Auto Group, which operates 15 locations in New Jersey, agreed to a $300,000 settlement to resolve an investigation into allegations that included failing to disclose prior accident history, using deceptive advertising and failing to honor vehicle warranties.
Under the terms of the assurance of voluntary compliance entered with the division, Open Road Auto Group, among other things, agreed to:
— Disclose the total cost, the down payment, trade-in or rebate, if any, plus the total scheduled periodic payments in the advertisement of installment sales of vehicles
— Include a statement that “prices include all costs to be paid by consumer, except for licensing costs, registration fees, and taxes,” in the advertisement of new or used vehicles
— Disclose in the advertisement that a vehicle had been previously damaged and that substantial repair or body work has been performed on it when such prior repair or body work is known or should have been known
— Refrain from charging customers for work done or parts supplied in excess of any estimate, without oral or written consent from the customer
— Accurately disclose the purchase price of any dealer-installed options;
— Refrain from misrepresenting to consumers that aftermarket merchandise such as service contracts and window etch are mandatory
— Itemize all aftermarket merchandise on leases, sales documents and contracts;
— Refrain from charging consumers separately for a “destination charge” on any advertised vehicle when the cost is already included in the advertised price
— Provide consumers with an opportunity to review all lease documents prior to signing.
Official said Open Road Auto Group also agreed to provide a $100 service credit coupon toward service, maintenance, or repair for all consumers who purchased a vehicle in 2017 and were charged a wash and detail fee.
Additionally, officials said the company will enter binding arbitration through the division’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Unit to resolve all pending complaints from affected consumers and any additional consumer complaints received by the division for a period of three years.
Settlement with Glen Motors
Officials said Glen Motors Inc, located in Fair Lawn, agreed to a $90,000 settlement — which includes $66,088.98 in civil penalties — to resolve allegations that included failing to list the price of vehicles on its sales documents, failing to itemize aftermarket products or dealer-installed options and failing to obtain consumer signatures on all sales documents.
Under the terms of the assurance of voluntary compliance entered with the division, Glen Motors Inc., among other things, agreed to:
— Itemize all aftermarket products on the leases, sales documents and aftermarket contracts
— Provide consumers an aftermarket contract containing a clear statement of the full total price for such aftermarket products, including an itemization of the aftermarket products
— Refrain from charging consumers for aftermarket products that are not reflected in the leases, sales documents or aftermarket contracts
— Provide consumers with a full and accurate copy of all leases, sales documents, and aftermarket contracts signed by the consumer
— Not misrepresent to consumers that dealer-installed options or aftermarket products are mandatory when such is not the case
— Itemize all pre-delivery services in writing on the sales document
— Refrain from adding or charging for aftermarket products or dealer-installed options without the consumers’ written authorization
— Honor all advertised vehicle prices, terms and conditions
— Obtain the consumers’ signatures on all aftermarket contracts, leases, retail buyer’s orders, sales documents and any other document that requires the consumers’ signatures.
Officials added Glen Motors also agreed to enter binding arbitration through the division’s ADR Unit to resolve all pending complaints from affected consumers and any additional consumer complaints received by the division for a period of two years.
A portion of the settlement amount will be suspended and automatically vacated provided the company complies with the terms of the agreement over a two-year period, according to the news release.
Settlement with Lynnes
Finally, the division also announced a settlement with several Lynnes dealerships — Lynnes Nissan City, Lynnes Nissan East, Lynnes Hyundai and Lynnes Subaru, all located in Bloomfield.
Officials said Lynnes agreed to a $46,381 settlement — which includes $33,500 in civil penalties to resolve allegations that included charging consumers for certain fees twice, accepting incomplete credit applications from prospective buyers, and failing to list vehicle prices on sales documents.
Under the terms of the consent order with the division, Lynnes, among other things, agreed to:
— Comply with all applicable state and/or federal laws, rules, and regulations, including the Consumer Fraud Act, the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations and the Automotive Sales Practices Regulations
— Itemize all aftermarket merchandise and dealer-installed options in the sales documents and aftermarket contract
— Include the trade-in value of a vehicle on all sales documents
— Not engage in a “bait and switch” by refusing to show, display, sell, or lease vehicles at the advertised price, as required by the Consumer Fraud Act and the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations;
— Accurately disclose the sale price of vehicle on the sales documents; and
— Refrain from signing any aftermarket contract, lease, sales document or other document on behalf of a consumer or affixing a consumer’s signature to any document
Officials went on to mention Lynnes also agreed to enter binding arbitration through the division’s ADR Unit to resolve all pending complaints from affected consumers and to arbitrate, if necessary, any additional consumer complaints received by the division for a period of three years.
A portion of the settlement amount will be suspended and automatically vacated provided the company complies with the terms of the agreement, according to officials.