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January 2014 Archives

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!   

Continued Momentum to Address Forced Arbitration

 

SFGate.com

When the little guy gets shut out of court

 Those who fail to read a contract's fine print - in other words, most of us - may not realize we are routinely forfeiting our right to a fair grievance process when we get a job, seek medical treatment or buy anything from a cell phone to a car.It's become standard practice for businesses to require that any consumer or employment disputes be settled in arbitration instead of a court of law.Read more 

Games Dealers Play: The Incredible Shrinking Down Payment

 Most car and truck purchases are financed at a car dealership under retail installment contracts.   Our attorneys have reviewed thousands of these transactions over the years, and we have learned much about the tricks that car dealerships play in order to maximize their profit – often at the expense of the consumer.  This post is the first in what will be a series on various types of car dealer fraud called the Games Dealers Play.  One of those games isn't much fun, because it involves the literal theft of a money by dealership employees. We frequently find that there the amount of the down payment shown in the contract documents is different from the amount the consumer paid.  Sometimes the contract shows a higher amount, and we will discuss the several reasons why dealerships inflate down payments in future posts.  But, sometimes, the contract will show less than the amount actually paid.  In these cases, the down payment was almost always paid in cash.  Sometimes the dealership does this in order to illegally avoid taxes – and consumers certainly don’t want any part of that! Most of the time, however, the whole down payment is not stated on the contract because someone at the dealership stole the money.  Here's an example of how it works: a buyer goes to a dealership with $2,000 for a down payment and can afford payments of $320/month.  The salesman sells a car at a total cost of $10,000 and arranges to finance $9,000 at $320/mo for 3 years.   The salesman takes the customer's money and turns over $1,000 to his boss and pockets the other $1,000.  If the stolen money had been applied to the purchase, then the loan would have been for only $8,000 - and the consumer could have saved about $36 a month, or almost $1,300 extra over the life of the loan! Consumers should always get a receipt for cash payments to protect themselves from dealership theft.   They should also look closely at their contracts BEFORE signing. 

My personal information has been compromised-- What Should I Do?

The recent theft of financial information from Target’s website is just one of many instances where consumers have been exposed to the risk of identity theft.  Sensitive information such as account statements,  loan or mortgage documents, or tax documents can also be compromised if they get lost in the mail, intercepted, or misdelivered.   If you learn that your personal information has been compromised, here is some information that you can take to minimize the risk that you will become a victim of identity theft:

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