Articles Posted in Dealership Litigation

Amy Handlin and John McKeon are sponsoring an anti-consumer bill that would change the business landscape in New Jersey.

A key provision of the new New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act would exempt out of state transactions. This means the following: if someone in New Jersey commits consumer fraud upon a non-resident (living in NY, PA or CT) there are no consequences.

“a. apply only to transactions that take place in the State”

Car Salesmen and Dealerships to be Protected with Proposed Changes in Consumer Fraud Act.

Amy Handlin and Jack McKeon have sponsored and introduced ANTI-CONSUMER legislation to reduce consumer rights and protect car dealerships.

The changes in the Consumer Fraud Act would exempt or limit liability against businesses that are already regulated, such as car dealerships. It would also limit liability for consumers who consummate out-of-state transactions. This arguably contradicts other legislation that has been introduced to increase liability for those committing consumer fraud.

CHANGES IN THE NEW JERSEY CONSUMER FRAUD ACT TO PROTECT CAR SALESMAN

Amy Handlin is the co-sponsor on this bill to protect car salesman

John McKeon is the primary Sponsor on this bill to protect car salesmen.

As previously reported on the internet and through the Division of Consumer Affairs, specifically, four Sansone dealerships signed a consent agreement with the State to cease various business practices. Interestingly enough as part of the settlement, there is a complaints program. The defendants in the lawsuit are required to submit a copy of the consent judgment to its officers, directors and owners within 30 days of the settlement and then, within 45 days, the defendants shall provide the state with proof that they have been supplied a copy of the consent judgment with an alphabetic list of the names.

Then, within 60 days, the specific Sansone dealership shall provide the plaintiff with a memorandum detailing the specific policies and procedures within the advertisements and websites required by the motor vehicle advertising regulations as compliance as part of the consent judgment. The dealerships are required to make available for inspecting and copying, at no cost to the plaintiffs, all policies and procedures applicable to this portion of the settlement.

This is significant. If now a consumer were to institute suit against Sansone for one of the actual or legal theories which were covered as part of the state investigation and settlement, Sansone would effectively be on notice and, in essence, have committed an intentional violation of the law. If the officers and directors are required to know and required to review the appropriate compliance procedures and policies to make sure that the program is followed, the only reasonable conclusion would be that Sansone would be aware of any of the appropriate violations. You would think that this would be necessary as part of running a dealership, but apparently it is not.

In this case an arbitration was filed against the dealer because it was alleged that they refused to return the deposit after the plaintiff returned the car. No return of deposit.

CONSUMER FRAUD

The petitioner was forced to enter the transaction when she was told that her first transaction was not approved for financing. They told her that she would not receive the deposit of $2,000 returned but they told her that she would receive credit towards the next transaction. She did receive that credit on the next transaction, although she did not purchase the vehicle or have any dealings with the defendant, but had no choice. The failure to return the money after the cancellation of the contact by the respondent constitutes unconscionable conduct, if not outright conversion. The representation that she would not receive her money when the transaction was cancelled by the dealer constitutes an affirmative representation. Then, when petitioner defaults on the payments, the car is repossessed and no post-repossession notice is provided and there is no post-sale accounting. It is unknown what occurred to the car, whether the defendants used it for personal purposes or profit. Without proof we must make such assumptions.

1. Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant, xxxxx America, committed any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise or misrepresentation as I have defined in connection with the transaction involving the sale of the subject vehicle?

YES _______ NO _______ VOTE ________

Please go to # 2

Many processes are used, such as keeping people at the dealership for a long period of time, separating couples, confusing customers with various documentation and keeping them in the air. There are many, many dealership terms that characterized the types of process that are undertaken. If one were to think that negotiating a purchase of the car is simply speaking about the price and then getting the financing approved, they are mistaken. The dealership has various devices to ‘squeeze you’ for additional money and time. All of the squeezing that the dealership does ultimately breaks down your defenses and I have had many clients who have said I was there for so long, I just signed whatever documents that they put in front of me. This is exactly what a dealership is trying to do.
Therefore, if you are buying a vehicle, it is important that you go there when you are well-rested and take an aggressive attitude with the dealership and understand that nothing that they say can be trusted. If you take this approach and get aggressive with them and start asking questions of them to see what price they want and what financing they want and what interest rate they can provide, they will be on the defensive. Ultimately, the dealership knows that you can walk out of the dealership, go to another dealership across the street or down the road and get a better deal and cost them a sale. Dealerships count on a certain percentage of all people entering the dealership to purchase vehicles. This is a known statistic by the dealerships.

Buying a Car and Consumer Fraud

Many consumers confide that buying a vehicle is one of the worst experiences of their life. Frequently, they come into my office and they are embarrassed and ashamed of the situation in which they have found themselves.

When one understands how a car dealership sells cars, there is a complete understanding of the circumstances leading to a vehicle purchased and there should be no reason to be embarrassed. Quite frankly, people do not understand the extensive processes at work when buying a car. Actually, the appropriate statement would be most people do not understand the processes at work used by a dealership to force the sale of vehicles. This process has been honed for many years, for which the dealership employees at all levels have been trained. All levels of dealership employees, including salesmen, sales managers, finance and insurance managers, general managers and other owner representatives have been extensively trained in the process of selling cars.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, a subdivision of the Department of Law and Public Safety, provides an excellent website with links to all of the relevant New Jersey departments, links to all of the relevant inquiries pertaining to the Division of Consumer Affairs, and current headlines or investigations undergoing or undertaken by representatives of the Division of Consumer Affairs. As an example, there are headlines on the site and the current headlines as of the writing of this blog indicate that there are various ticket sellers which agree to stop speculative ticket sales, a Hudson County Senior Fraud Education and Protection Program, a notice on chimney repair scams and an announcement that the state, through Governor Corzine and Attorney General Milgram, are going to provide consumers with titles when the dealerships have gone out of business. The Division of Consumer Affairs also has links to the Division of Criminal Justice, Division of Civil Rights, Division of Gaming and Enforcement, Division of Highway Traffic Safety, Division of Law, Juvenile Justice Commission, New Jersey Racing Commission, State of Athletic Control Board, Division of State Police and Victims of Crime Compensation Office. There are also numerous consumer briefs, which are items of public information which is extensive, ranging from county office on aging to travel scams.

The previous blog posted explains the nature and extent of the claims under wrongful repossession. However, one of the common questions is that I know I was late on my loan, missed a few payments, and the vehicle was repossessed. The finance company contacted me and they demanded the entire company of the loan in order to obtain possession of my vehicle.
There is a basic theory under New Jersey law called good faith and fair dealings. One potential claim against the financing source under the circumstances would be that they are being commercially unreasonable under the Uniform Commercial Code. You could also assert that they are not complying with their obligation to act in good faith and deal fairly. Under New Jersey law, a lender in the context of a repossession and redemption need to be commercially reasonable. In addition, there is an obligation that they deal with a consumer or customer in good faith with regard to the contract which was in place between the parties. Both of these situations require the application of the good faith and commercially reasonable doctrines. If one were to argue that this would be an appropriate basis for liability, the damages section set forth in the prior blog pertaining to the wrongful repossession would apply.