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Connecticut Consumer Protection Law Blog

Consumer Law Group Assists Plaintiffs in Obtaining Combined $65,344 Judgment Against Connecticut Auto Dealership

Consumer Law Group recently obtained a judgment against Prime Auto Group, LLC- an East Windsor, Connecticut car dealership- for its wrongful conduct in connection with the sale of motor vehicles to two Connecticut residents, and its subsequent wrongful repossession attempts. The plaintiffs were awarded a combined total of $55,334 in damages. The court also ruled that one of the Plaintiffs was entitled to keep her car at no charge, and that Prime was responsible to pay the Plaintiffs' attorney's fees in the amount of $10,000.

The lawsuit alleged that Prime advertised "guaranteed credit approval" and promised a free car if it could not obtain credit approval. Both of the Plaintiffs visited Prime because of this advertising, and they each provided Prime with the necessary information for their credit applications. Shortly after Prime received their credit information (and after they had taken their new cars home), Prime notified them that their applications had been denied and demanded that they return the cars to the dealership. When the Plaintiffs refused, Prime took repossession action. Prime was successful in repossessing one of the Plaintiff's cars.

Are Direct Auto Sales Good for Consumers?

Tesla Motors, a manufacturer of electric cars, has announced plans to open a store in Milford, Connecticut. Aside from being known for making electric cars, Tesla has gained significant attention through its innovative marketing strategy. Unlike traditional manufacturers, Tesla does not use dealers to market and sell its product. Rather, buyers purchase cars directly from Tesla at retail stores (often located in shopping malls) or on its website.

Games Dealers Play: Tax Season Trip Ups

'Tis the season for tax refunds. This means that many car dealerships are running "special promotions" to help you spend that extra cash. Here's a list of some of the most common tax season trip-ups for consumers, as well as our advice on how to avoid them:

"Double Down Payment" Deals- A few weeks ago, we posted a blog entry about fake and inflated down payments. This type of scheme is particularly common during refund season because dealers know that consumers are looking for ways to stretch that tax refund as far as it will go.

A dealer running a "double down payment" or similar promotion will advertise double the credit for cash down payments. So, if you bring in $3,000, the dealer will credit you as if you paid $6,000. Sounds like a pretty great deal, right?

Games Dealers Play: Should Consumers Buy GAP Protection?

GAP protection covers the scenario where a motor vehicle is totaled in an accident or stolen and not recovered. Insurance will pay for the retail value of the car minus the deductible. If that is not enough to pay the car loan, the consumer is responsible for the difference. If a consumer has GAP protection, they theoretically will not have to pay that difference (but, read on - many consumers learn that they do not have the protection that they think that they have). The term "GAP", which evokes the image of a gap between the insurance payout and the outstanding loan balance, is sometimes used as an acronym for product names such as "Guaranteed Asset Protection" or "Guaranteed Auto Protection".

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Many consumers have complained that car dealers have required them to purchase GAP in order to be approved for financing. If a dealership requires GAP, they have almost always violated a number of state and federal laws, and any consumer who is required to buy GAP should consult with an attorney.

Games Dealers Play: Inflating the Down Payment

When we evaluate a potential client's contract documents, we always check to see whether the contract accurately shows the amount paid as a down payment. A few weeks ago, we discussed the problem of some car dealerships not crediting the full down payment to a vehicle purchase. . A very different problem - and one that we saw far more frequently - is when a contract shows a higher down payment than the amount that the consumer paid. For example, a consumer may give a dealership $1,000 down, but the contract may show that the consumer paid $3,000. Sometimes, the dealership is quite open about this. We have even seen dealerships advertise that they will give consumers more "credit" for the down payment than the amount that they actually pay. Other times, the consumer has no idea that the down payment was inflated.

Consumer Law Group in the News: Defective Used Cars

Consumer Law Group Managing Attorney Dan Blinn was interviewed in a News 8 (WTNH) investigation on the sale of defective used cars in Connecticut.  The story, which aired on January 30, 2014, focused on a woman who purchased a used car that an independent mechanic determined had significant salt water damage.  She bought the car from A Better Way Wholesale Autos, a car dealership in Naugatuck, CT that claims to be the largest volume used car dealer in Connecticut.  The story can be seen on WTNH's website As Dan explained in the interview, consumers who buy defective used cars that cannot be repaired often have the right to return the car to the dealership.

Games Dealers Play: Overcharging for a Vehicle

 We don’t buy cars the same way that we buy other things.  For most purchases, a consumer can walk into a store, pick out an item, and reasonably expect to pay the same price that is charged to everybody.   That is not true at most car dealerships, and consumers who do not take steps to protect themselves are at risk of being overcharged thousands of dollars. Federal law requires that new vehicle manufacturers include the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (“MSRP”) on new car stickers (known as Monroney stickers – named after the Senator who wrote the original law).   Dealerships are not allowed to remove the sticker; only the purchaser may remove it.  Savvy consumers are usually able to negotiate a price that is significantly less than the MSRP.  Websites such as www.edmunds.com provide information on reasonable prices for new cars. But, some dealerships take advantage of vulnerable consumers such as the elderly and disabled by charging them even more than the MSRP.  Courts have held that a consumer may be able to sue a dealership for unfair trade practices if it sells a new car for more than the MSRP without having put a sticker on the car asking for a higher price.  And, if a dealership advertises a car at the MSRP or some other price, consumer protection regulations prohibit the dealership from selling the car for more than the advertised price. There is no MSRP for used cars, but there are several sources such as NADA, Kelley Blue Book, and www.edmunds.com that give “book” values for used vehicles.   There is no law that requires a dealership to sell cars for “book” value, so consumers have to be particularly careful when buying a used car.  Most used car dealerships do not put the price of used cars on the vehicles; consumers have to ask.  If a Connecticut dealership advertises a price for a used car, however, it may not sell the car for more than the advertised price.  It is a good idea to look at a dealership’s website to check a vehicle’s price before signing any papers. Sometimes a dealership overcharges for a vehicle simply because it can.  Other times, dealerships raise the price of cars sold to people who do not have good credit scores.  Another reason for overcharging is to make up for money that is being lost on a trade-in.    An attorney usually cannot help a consumer who didn’t negotiate a great deal, but consumers who have been truly overcharged should consider having an attorney look at their documents.  Consumer Law Group does not charge for an initial assessment. Before buying a used car, watch the video of our Webinar:  How To Buy A Used Car Without Losing Your Shirt (Or Your Sanity).  It provides lots of information about how to get the best price for a car and how to avoid falling into many dealer traps.  You can save a bundle!   

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