A Connecticut judge has issued a decision finding that A Better Way Wholesale Autos of Naugatuck, Connecticut engaged in unfair trade practices and committed auto dealer fraud when it refused to refund a deposit to an Manchester woman. The court awarded her a refund of her $2,500 deposit plus punitive damages of $7,500. The dealership is also responsible to pay the consumer's attorney's fees.
The consumer wanted to purchase a 2007 Honda Odyssey minivan that was advertised for $10,995. A salesperson told her that she would be responsible to also pay a conveyance fee, registration costs, and sales tax. The dealership asked her to pay a $2,500 deposit to initiate the credit approval process and that the deposit would be refunded if her credit application was not approved.
The Court found that the dealership later told Plaintiff that she would have to buy various extras such as a GAP Addendum, a service contract, a package for oil changes or life, or a tire and wheel package in order to finance the purchase of the vehicle. The Plaintiff refused to buy those extras, and the dealership refused to refund her deposit.
The Court found that A Better Way violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by attempting to sell the minivan for more than the advertised price and by misrepresenting the total cost of purchasing the vehicle when it solicited the deposit. The court also found the dealership liable for fraudulent misrepresentation.
In finding that the dealership committed unfair trade practices, the court noted that the dealership advertised the car for some $2,000 less than similar vehicles advertised by other dealers. The court noted that A Better Way's conduct also harmed other car dealerships. By advertising a low price, taking the money the consumer had available for a down payment, and then forcing her to choose between accepting previously undisclosed terms that added thousands of dollars to the total price or forfeiting her deposit, the consumer's business was unavailable to competing dealerships who do not commit auto dealer fraud and who accurately advertise the prices of vehicles.
The plaintiff in the case was represented by Attorney Daniel Blinn of Consumer Law Group. A copy of the court's decision can be found here.