The Connecticut Appellate Court, in a unanimous decision, recently upheld a decision by a Connecticut Superior Court Judge that A Better Way Wholesale Autos committed auto dealer fraud. The judge had found, following a trial, that the dealership had committed unfair trade practices and defrauded a consumer.
The consumer, who was represented at trial by Attorney Daniel Blinn of Consumer Law Group , was encouraged by a salesman to pay a $2,500 deposit on a car. The salesman promised her that she would get a refund of the deposit if her credit application was not approved. A Better Way Wholesale Autos later called her and told her that she was approved.
The consumer claimed in the lawsuit that, when she returned to the dealership, was required to purchase "extras" that she did not want in order to buy the car. She refused to go ahead with the purchase, because the extras drove up the cost of the car considerably. A Better Way Wholesale Autos refused to refund her deposit.
The trial court found in a written decision that the dealership's actions constituted fraud and that A Better Way Wholesale Autos had violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices. In addition to awarding a refund of the deposit, the court also awarded the consumer an additional $7,500 in punitive damages. The court also oredered that A Better Way Wholesale Autos pay for attorney's fees.
The dealership appealed from the decision, and the Appellate Court, in a unanimous decision, rejected the appeal, finding that the practices were fraudulent and unfair.
This recent decision is consistent with findings in several recent decisions by arbitrators that A Better Way Wholesale Autos had acted unfairly by packing contracts by requiring consumers to purchase unwanted extras such as oil change contracts, GAP agreements, or service contracts.
In one recent decision, an arbitrator found that A Better Way Wholesale Autos had engaged in unfair trade practices by requiring a consumer to buy unwanted extras in two car purchases. In that case, the arbitrator awarded refunds of the unwanted products, punitive damages of $10,000, and attorney's fees.
In finding in favor of the consumer, the arbitrator observed that the prior decisions suggested that this conduct "was not isolated but was part of a regular practice" of the dealership.