Lawsuit: Dealer sold “fake” warranties on used cars

Ever wonder what happens when you buy a warranty or service contract from a car dealer?  Unfortunately, some dealers just pocket the money.  Then if your car needs repairs, you are left with no coverage.  Some dealers have faced criminal penalties for engaging in this scam, but often it goes undetected.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers in New Jersey alleges that a dealer in that state repeatedly sold so-called “warranties” or service contracts on expensive used cars, but failed to activate the policies.

See news report:

ABC 7 New York: Dealer of high-end used cars sold “fake” warranties

Don’t fall victim to car dealer scams.  CARS tips for how to get a good deal on a nice, safe, reliable used car — without having to set foot on a car dealer’s lot

 

Buying a car from a dealer in California may get even more hazardous to your financial health

When you buy a car at an auto dealership, you should be able to get all the terms in writing BEFORE you sign anything — right?  Right. But for California car buyers, that may change. Why? Because car dealers are aggressively lobbying to get rid of the consumer protection laws in California that currently prohibit them from using “e-contracting.”

The California New Car Dealers Association and Enterprise Holdings (one of the largest sellers of used cars) are pushing for passage of AB 380, authored by Assemblymember Matt Dababneh (D-Van Nuys), powerful chair of the California Assembly Committee on Banking.

But pro-consumer groups including Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, CALPIRG, the Consumer Federation of California, Consumer Action, Public Counsel, the California Reinvestment Coalition, the Center for Responsible Lending, and Public Good are fighting back, to preserve protections for California car buyers.

Who would benefit the most if AB 380 passes?

One of the biggest winners would be Credit Acceptance Corp. What’s their business model?

Mother Jones: “They Had Created this Remarkable System for Taking Every Last Dime from Their Customers: Welcome to the Lucrative, Predatory World of Subprime Auto Loans”

Here’s why groups that work on behalf of consumers and against powerful, crooked special interests are opposing AB 380:

Large coalition of pro-consumer, pro-economic justice organizations opposes AB 380

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety opposes AB 380 (Dababneh)

Consumer Federation of California

CALPIRG

What’s wrong with e-contracting in car transactions?

Unscrupulous car dealers and shady lenders LOVE “e-contracting.” A LOT. That’s because the combination of high-pressure sales tactics at the car dealership — aimed at consumers who are often tired and feeling rushed after hours of haggling and test-driving cars — and all-electronic transactions make it much easier for dealers and crooked lenders to get away with fraud, forgery, and other illicit (but oh-so profitable!) flim-flam.

Among crooked car dealers’ favorite e-contracting scams: selling cars in excess of the agreed-upon price, “packing” loans with thousands of dollars in unwanted, high-profit, worthless add-ons, overcharging for license fees and pocketing the difference, selling cars that fail to pass smog,  charging bogus “government” fees, and engaging in other types of fraud.

Unlike with home purchases, where there are strict, built-in protections, auto sales transactions fail to require the seller to provide you with a written, good faith estimate of all the costs three days in advance, before you sign.  Buying a car is much riskier. It’s also riskier than credit card transactions, where there are limits on your liability in the event of identity theft or fraud.

You have a lot to lose

Under the federal Truth in Lending Act, you are entitled to get all the disclosures about an auto loan in writing. BEFORE you sign anything. Like: What will the monthly payments be? How much will you have to pay in interest?  How long will the loan last? Up front. In your own hands. Then if you wish, you can leave the dealership and take that document with you and shop around, to see if you can find another dealer or lender who will beat that offer. You have that important right, thanks to federal law.

California law also prohibits dealers from using e-contracts. That means when you buy a car in California, the dealer should hand you a paper document, with everything in writing, all nicely filled in. You can look at the entire document at one time, or zero in on any part of it. You get to review the whole contract before you decide whether you want to agree to anything. You can tell that “friendly” F & I manager to stop hovering over you, while you read it. You can take it with you while you sip a cup of coffee in a quiet spot. You can show it to your spouse, or friends, or an attorney, or anyone you wish,  BEFORE you sign.

But if the dealers and lenders have their way, and gut California’s law against e-contracting in auto sales, dealers will be able to get away with concealing vital terms on a computer screen that you may not even be able to read. You certainly cannot take the computer or e-pad with you and shop around. It won’t be in your control. Instead, it will be in the dealership’s control.

If  AB 380 passes, car dealers can lure consumers into signing in advance that they agreed to let the dealer use e-contracting, to buy a car.  They can make it sound like it’s no big deal. Then they can use that against car buyers, if there are any disagreements over what they agreed upon. Making matters worse, “signing” can be done by anyone who has access to the computer — with the click of a mouse.  It would become virtually impossible to prove your signature was forged. Your “signature” could be added with a click. By anyone.

And — you won’t get anything in writing, on paper, until AFTER the documents have already been “signed.” By then, it’s too late, and you may be held legally obligated to pay, even if you are the victim of a scam.

Consumers fight back

Some dealers in California have jumped the gun and are already acting as if it were legal for them to use e-contracts. With unfortunate but predictable results. Consumers are starting to complain they didn’t get to see the screen, and dealers are adding thousands of dollars extra, above the purchase price that was negotiated; giving the consumers thousands less than the agreed-upon value of their trade-ins; and adding in worthless, expensive service contracts  — even when the consumers rejected them, during negotiations. One dealer added over $4000 in multiple unwanted, worthless extra service contracts onto the purchase of a new car, plus “surface protection” costing over $1200 and “Lo Jack” costing $695 — extremely high-profit items for car dealers.

In some cases, consumers have won the right take these dealers to court, because the judges agreed that the contracts were not binding, citing the existing law that prohibits e-contracting. Otherwise, the consumers could be forced into arbitration, basically being compelled to surrender their Constitutional right to fight back in a court of law.

If the predatory dealers and lenders win, and AB 380 passes, consumers would be likely to lose those court challenges they are winning now, and could be forced to give up their ability to hold unscrupulous dealers accountable.

Winners and Losers

If AB 380 passes, the biggest winners will be large auto dealership chains like AutoNation, which took in over $19 billion in gross revenue in 2014. They are publicly traded on Wall Street. Their biggest investor? Bill Gates.

The biggest losers will be California’s new and used car buyers who can ill-afford to give away thousands of their hard-earned dollars to mega-dealers and big banks for the privilege of being ripped off.

What can you do to help stop AB 380, the crooked car dealers and fraudulent lenders’ favorite bill?

Call your Assemblymember and tell them to vote NO on AB 380. Buying a car from a car dealer in California is already dangerous enough.  Here’s where to find out who your Assemblymember in Sacramento is: Find Your Legislator

Thank you! Every call helps make a difference!

Read more:

Large coalition of pro-consumer, pro-economic justice organizations opposes AB 380

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety opposes AB 380 (Dababneh)

More pro-consumer organizations are also opposing AB 380:

Consumer Federation of California

CALPIRG

Public Counsel

Attorney David Valdez, who represents many victims of unscrupulous auto dealers and lenders

 

 

 

Buying a used car? YIPES!!

Comedian and commentator John Oliver lambastes crooked car dealers and greedy auto lenders. These are the unscrupulous characters we’re battling with, to protect consumers.

How can you avoid becoming a victim of greedy dealers and Wall Street bankers? It’s easier than you think. Here’s how you can get a good deal on a nice, safe, reliable used car — without having to deal with professional crooks.

How to get a good deal on a nice, safe, reliable used car

 

 

 

 

Can’t get your car registered? Stopped by Police? You are not alone.

According to the Associated Press, Minnesotan Philando Castile, who was shot and killed during an otherwise “routine” traffic stop, had been pulled over at least 52 times in recent years, in and around the Twin Cities, and cited for minor offenses. He had been assessed over $6500 in fines and fees, although many violations had been dismissed in court.

His tragic death is a stark and heartrending reminder of what can go horribly wrong when car drivers are pulled over by police. It should also raise serious, urgent questions about why some people are being pulled over at all.

Consumer and civil rights groups are raising alarms about a new law that was just enacted in California that will lead to many innocent people being pulled over by police, ticketed, having their cars impounded, and facing severe criminal sanctions. Why? Because car dealers failed to provide them with permanent license plates within the 90-day deadline for displaying permanent plates.

Governor Jerry Brown just signed the bill, AB 516, into law in the nation’s largest, most diverse state. It is now on track to take effect in January, 2019. So there is still time to change it before more innocent car buyers are harmed.

According to the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area, “LCCR recently published, in collaboration with other groups, a report entitled Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California, which shows the many ways that low-income California drivers, and particularly communities of color, are impacted by unfair laws that result in license suspensions and hefty fines, and that lead people into an endless cycle of debt and court involvement from which they cannot extricate themselves. Rather than reverse this trend, AB 516 would contribute to it.”

Here’s why this obvious injustice keeps happening, and how AB 516 would make it worse:

Under California’s current law, car buyers who purchase new or used cars without permanent metal license plates, at a car dealership, pay the dealer $29 for an “electronic vehicle registration or transfer charge” plus an $80  “document processing charge” to handle the registration. Sometimes they pay an additional $100 or more for a “registration /transfer/titling fee.” Then they drive off the car lot with a document that is folded up and taped in the back window that shows the date of sale and other relevant information. The dealer is supposed to handle the registration, and send them the permanent plates, either directly or by hiring a company approved by the DMV.

Car buyers must install permanent plates as soon as they receive them, or within 90 days. There are no exceptions. The law says they have to put them on the car before the 91st day — even if they have not received them, through no fault of their own. No plates? Tough. Hapless car buyers still face being pulled over, ticketed, and having their car impounded.

The kicker: There is NO requirement for dealers to ensure that car buyers receive their permanent plates within the 90 days. Some dealers take advantage of this major loophole in the law to abuse the system and increase their profits. As a result, this scenario plays out all too often:

You pay good money to buy a car from a car dealer. You drive it home. You paid cash, or if you got a car loan, you are making the payments, in full and on time. Life is good. Until….

You are pulled over by the police. Why? Because the temporary registration has expired, and you have not received the permanent plates. Why not? Because the dealer failed to submit the registration documents to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As in, the dealer went out of business without paying the taxes he collected, or submitting documents to the DMV — some dealers do this to hundreds of people, then go belly up. OR —

  • The dealer entered the wrong Vehicle ID Number (VIN) into the system.
  • The dealer fired the person who handles vehicle registrations and hasn’t gotten around to hiring a replacement.
  • The dealer sold you a car that is registered in another state, which can take months to straighten out.
  • The dealer sold you a car with an unpaid lien, and the lender is demanding payment (which can run thousands of dollars) before it will release the title.
  • The dealer had the permanent plates sent to him, and not to you, so he can demand that you pay more, under threat of being pulled over again and again, and having your car impounded.
  • The DMV has a backlog in issuing permanent plates.
  • The DMV entered the wrong VIN.
  • Or — one of a myriad of other scenarios that are beyond your control.

None of that is your fault. You paid the fees for the dealer to properly register the car, when you bought it. It’s the dealer or the DMV who messed up. But who gets penalized? YOU.

According to consumer attorney Steven Simons, on July 19, 2014, Matthew Smith and his brother Luke bought a 2003 Acura for about $6900 (plus financing) from a dealership in Van Nuys, CA.  They paid the dealer the usual fees to handle the registration. But the dealer failed to follow through and do his job. Despite repeated attempts by the Smiths to get their car properly registered, and their fruitless attempts to get the DMV to assist them, to this day their Acura has not been properly registered, and they have not received their permanent plates. Meanwhile, police officers in several jurisdictions have repeatedly pulled Matthew over, including at gunpoint, and detained him for hours, searching him and his car.

Think this is wrong? We agree! Unfortunately, it’s going to get a lot worse, when AB 516 takes effect.

The author of AB 516 is Bay Area Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo). The most avid backers are toll authorities, who want temporary tags to be mandated, so they will rake in more revenue. Currently, they lose money when people who don’t have readily traceable plates drive through unattended toll booths without paying.

The other major backers are the car dealers. They keep pushing aggressively to shorten the amount of time car buyers have to install permanent plates, or face criminal penalties. California car buyers used to have 6 months to install permanent plates. Then in 2011, car dealers persuaded legislators to cut the time in half, to 90 days. Recently, car dealers tried to get lawmakers to slice the deadline in half again, to just 45 days. That bill has temporarily stalled, pending enactment of AB 516. But dealers are expected to bring it back.

The author claims that the first ticket you would get is supposedly just a “fix-it” ticket. So what’s the big deal?  Here’s the catch: you cannot fix it. Typically, people caught in this trap call the dealer and the DMV over and over again, file complaints, and even go in person and spend hours at the DMV and dealership waiting around, and pleading with them. What they discover is that getting the registration completed, so they can drive legally, is out of their hands. It is an exercise in extreme frustration.

Sometimes it takes over a year to get things straightened out. By then, many people are pulled over repeatedly and ticketed, and their cars are impounded. Even if they pay all the tickets and the hefty impound fees, they cannot get their cars back because they are not the registered owners.

What happens to many hard-working consumers when their cars are impounded? They often lose their only means of transportation to work, and their jobs. Then they default on the car loan. Guess who swoops in to take back the car? The dealer. Then he turns around and resells the same car, over and over again, making a profit each time. You, on the other hand, get stuck with no car, a repossession that harms your credit for at least 7 years, harassing phone calls from the lender demanding immediate payment of the remaining car loan, and no job.

The bottom line: the bill will play right into the hands of unscrupulous car dealers, who want customers to give up and default on car loans, because they can make bigger profits from reselling the cars, and trashing people’s lives. According to a major series of reports by Ken Bensinger at the Los Angeles Times, some dealers in California engage in the practice of “churning” cars — reselling the same car over and over again — as a regular business practice.

The bill would also make it easier for unscrupulous dealers to engage in an illegal practice known as “yo-yo” financing, which is very common, even among supposedly reputable car dealers. When dealers “yo-yo” a consumer, they sell them a car, hand them the keys, and encourage them drive it away. Weeks later, they reel them back in,  telling them the “financing fell through.” Then threaten to have the consumer arrested for driving with an expired registration, or to report the vehicle as “stolen.” They exploit the fear of criminal sanctions to extract a larger down payment, higher interest rate, or other terms more favorable to the dealer. They refuse to return the down payment or the traded-in vehicle, leaving car buyers over a barrel.

If AB 516 is enacted, dealers will be required to install temporary tags. Good idea. We are in favor of law enforcement agencies being able to properly identify the car and the car buyer. But — the temporary tags will be highly visible, and will have an expiration date that is easy to spot — and easy for a scanning device to pinpoint. Suddenly, people with expired temporary tags will become ridiculously easy to target. Enforcement of that 90-day deadline, which tends to be relatively spotty now, will skyrocket.

Here’s what will happen, only a vastly larger scale: In a village on Long Island, New York, “Since the scanners went live Nov. 2, they have been triggering an average of 700 alarms a day, mainly about cars on the road with expired or suspended registration stickers. Officers have impounded 500 vehicles. They’ve written more than 2,000 court summonses, mostly for minor violations.”

Plus — AB 516 would make altering even just the expiration date on a temporary tag a wobbler/ felony offense, subjecting car buyers to a potential prison sentence of 2-3 years. Imagine: you keep being pulled over by the police because you have not received your permanent plates. If you are detained one more time, making you late for work, you will lose your job. In your desperation you take a magic marker and change the expiration date. For this “horrible crime,” you will be at risk of having to do hard time in prison. Even though you have not altered the number of the temporary tag, and toll agencies and law enforcement can readily identify the car, for toll collection or public safety purposes.

Consumer groups and the California Police Officers Association worked together and drafted amendments to AB 516 that would have addressed these serious problems with the bill, and presented those to the author’s staff, at an in-person meeting. The amendments would have changed the bill so that:

  • When law enforcement officials detect that your car has a temporary tag with an expired date, they would have to check an existing law enforcement database, that they can already access electronically, to find out whether you were issued permanent plates. In a matter of seconds, they can tell. If the plates have not been sent to your address, you would not be issued a citation.
  • It would be an infraction, not a wobbler / felony, to alter just the expiration date on the temporary tag, leaving the rest of the tag unaltered and readily traceable.

The California Police Officers Association, to its credit, expressed the sentiment that its members are not overly eager to pull over and detain people who are already frustrated because they cannot get their permanent plates, so long as they properly display the temporary tags, and the car is readily identifiable for public safety purposes.

However, Assemblymember Mullin refused to accept those amendments. Instead, he added a “fig leaf” to the bill that would require consumers who have not received their permanent plates to prove their own innocence by obtaining a form from the DMV and showing it, if they are detained. That may sound easy, but in reality, it’s just another Catch-22. The form cited in the bill requires that you sign, under penalty of perjury, that you are the “registered owner of record.” But that’s the problem. You are not the registered owner. That is why you didn’t receive your permanent plates. Gotcha.

Read more — letters opposing  AB 516:

Courage Campaign

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Consumer Federation of California

California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney and Judge Pro-Tem Steven Simons

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney David Valdez

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney Greg Babbitt

Lemon law / auto fraud attorney Balam Latona

Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the Bay Area

Citizens United for a Responsible Budget (CURB)

Law firm of Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Attacks on consumers mounting, over arbitration

In an amazingly lopsided editorial, the Albuquerque Journal published this hit piece, slamming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for its gutsy work to restore your ability to fight back in court, as a consumer, by joining forces with other consumers who have also been victimized by crooks who engage in illegal practices:

Albuquerque Journal editorial

Here’s the letter to the editor I sent them, in response. However, it won’t be too surprising if it doesn’t appear in print — for reasons you can readily guess:

Funny — this newspaper didn’t object when the car dealers got a special exemption from the Federal Arbitration Act, that allows them to sue anyone they please. Since then, they have sued auto manufacturers, the federal government, their customers, and each other, and somehow you are fine with that, but apparently think their customers do not deserve to have the same access to the courts.

When Congress restored the right to go to court, for car dealers, the National Automobile Dealers Association wrote to members of Congress and promised not to oppose restoring the same rights to car buyers. Then they turned around and killed a bill that would have done exactly that.

If consumers don’t win back our rights through the CFPB’s rulemaking, then it looks like we will have to resort to free market solutions, like not buying another car from a dealer until we have the same legal protections they do.

Here’s the letter the car dealers sent to Members of Congress

And —  in case you haven’t already seen enough hypocrisy in this battle, here’s what Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa had to say, in favor of the legislation he authored, giving car dealers a special exemption from being forced to arbitrate their claims, in order to purchase a franchise to sell cars:

“While arbitration serves an important function as an efficient alternative to court, some trade-offs must be considered by both parties, such as limited judicial review and less formal procedures regarding discovery and rules of evidence. When mandatory binding arbitration is forced upon a party, for example when it is placed in a boiler-plate agreement, it deprives the weaker party the opportunity to elect another forum. As a proponent of arbitration I believe it is critical to ensure that the selection of arbitration is voluntary and fair…Unequal bargaining power exists in contracts between automobile and truck dealers and their manufacturers. The manufacturer drafts the contract and presents it to dealers with no opportunity to negotiate…The purpose of arbitration is to reduce costly, time-consuming litigation, not to force a party to an adhesion contract to waive access to judicial or administrative forums for the pursuit of rights under State law.”

Senator Grassley also said:

“This legislation will go a long way toward ensuring that parties will not be forced into binding arbitration and thereby lose important statutory rights. I am confident that given its many advantages arbitration will often be elected. But it is essential for public policy reasons and basic fairness that both parties to this type of contract have the freedom to make their own decisions based on the circumstances of the case.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself. So how come he and his colleagues in the House have changed their tune, when it comes to consumers?

Could it be that Sen. Grassley and the Republican Congress rely on campaign contributions from Wall Street crooks who pass on a tidy portion of the $$ they extract from consumers, via the Rip-off TAX? Hmmmmm….

Car Hop Ordered to cease harming consumers’ credit

So-called “Buy Here Pay Here” dealers like Car Hop often lure used car buyers onto their car lots with signs that scream:  “No Credit? No Problem!”  “Repo? No Problem!” “Bad Credit? No problem!”

They even promise that if you buy a car from them, and make your payments on time, they will help you restore or improve your credit. That’s one of the major reasons many car buyers shop there.

But all too often,what actually happens is another story.  American’s top consumer financial protection watchdog, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, just issued this announcement:

“CFPB Orders CarHop to Pay $6.4 Million Penalty for Jeopardizing Consumers’ Credit

One of Nation’s Biggest “Buy-Here, Pay-Here” Auto Dealers Provided Inaccurate Credit Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking action against CarHop, one of the country’s biggest “buy-here, pay-here” auto dealers, and its affiliated financing company, Universal Acceptance Corporation, for providing damaging, inaccurate consumer information to credit reporting companies. CarHop and its affiliate also failed to provide accurate, positive credit information that it promised consumers it would supply to the credit reporting companies. The CFPB’s investigation found that the companies inaccurately reported information for more than 84,000 accounts on a widespread and systemic basis. The CFPB is ordering the companies to cease their illegal activities and pay a $6,465,000 civil penalty.

“Many consumers went to CarHop because they needed transportation and wanted to build up a good record of paying their bills,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “But CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation thwarted those expectations by inaccurately furnishing negative credit information. The CFPB will not stand for companies whose sloppy actions jeopardize consumers’ credit.”

Minnesota-based CarHop, also known as Interstate Auto Group, is one of the largest buy-here, pay-here auto dealers in the nation. Buy-here, pay-here dealers sell cars and originate and service the auto loan. CarHop has approximately 50 retail locations in approximately 15 states. CarHop sells vehicles primarily to customers with nonexistent or poor credit histories in need of subprime or deep subprime credit. It markets itself as a way for these consumers to rebuild or build-up good credit by saying it will provide positive payment histories to the credit reporting companies. Consumers who buy from CarHop frequently do so because they suffer from poor credit scores and other financial challenges.

Universal Acceptance Corporation, on behalf of CarHop, furnishes consumer account information to all three major consumer reporting companies on a monthly basis. The CFPB found that the company reported information that it knew or had reasonable cause to believe was inaccurate. The company inaccurately furnished information for more than 84,000 accounts from about January 2009 until September 2013. With CarHop, consumers may not have even known about the damage to their credit profiles resulting from the erroneous reporting unless and until they checked their credit reports.

Almost all the information the companies inaccurately furnished to the credit reporting companies could potentially harm customers. The negative information could lower a consumer’s credit score, hamper their ability to obtain other credit, and hurt their job prospects. The CFPB found that CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Act. Specifically, the companies:

  • Deceived consumers into believing they could build up good credit with CarHop: As part of its marketing and sales practices, CarHop represented in writing to consumers that it reports “good credit” to the credit reporting companies. CarHop also emphasized to consumers its part in helping them build and maintain good credit. This appealed to consumers trying to build up their credit profiles with a history of on-time payments. But the company, through Universal Acceptance Corporation, failed to furnish certain positive information, including information that would support “good credit,” for tens of thousands of consumers.
  • Provided inaccurate repossession information: CarHop customers had the right to voluntarily return their vehicles within 72 hours of purchase for a full refund without any penalties or additional obligations. But for some customers who returned their vehicles under this policy, Universal Acceptance Corporation did not accurately report to the credit reporting companies what really happened. Instead, the company inaccurately reported on numerous occasions that the cars had been repossessed or that the consumer still owed money.
  • Incorrectly reported previous customers as still owing money: For consumers 72 hours past purchase, CarHop often resolved disputes by having the customer return the vehicle. It then issued documentation to the customer saying they no longer had any financial obligations and had settled their account. But for hundreds of customers, in the months or even years that followed after they returned their vehicles, Universal Acceptance Corporation inaccurately furnished, on a monthly basis, information that said that the customer still had an outstanding balance. Sometimes, the company inaccurately reported the amount past due in continuously increasing amounts.
  • Failed to have reasonable written policies and procedures to ensure the accuracy of consumers’ credit information: Universal Acceptance Corporation had no written policies and procedures regarding the accuracy and integrity of the consumer information it furnished until early August 2013. The policies it adopted that month were not reasonable or appropriate to the nature, size, complexity, and scope of the company’s activities.

Enforcement Action

Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB has the authority to take action against institutions or individuals engaging in unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices or that otherwise violate federal consumer financial laws. Under the terms of the CFPB orders released today, CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation must:

  • Cease misrepresenting that they will report “good credit”: The companies must not misrepresent to customers that they will report “good credit” or other positive information to the credit reporting companies.
  • Correct credit reporting information: If Universal Acceptance Corporation furnished information to a credit reporting company that it knew or had reasonable cause to believe was inaccurate, it must notify the credit reporting company of the inaccuracy. When it does so, it must either provide corrected information or request that the company delete the wrong information from the consumer’s file if accurate information is not available.
  • Provide credit reports to harmed consumers: CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation must, for consumers who had incorrect information furnished about their accounts, arrange for consumers to obtain free credit reports from the credit reporting companies that received the inaccurate information.
  • Implement an audit program to ensure laws are followed: CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation must implement a process for auditing information that Universal Acceptance Corporation furnishes to the credit reporting companies on a monthly basis. This process must include monitoring and evaluating the disputes the companies receive. The audit is designed to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the information.
  • Pay a $6,465,000 civil penalty: CarHop and Universal Acceptance Corporation will pay a $6,465,000 penalty to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund.”

The consent order can be found at: http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201512_cfpb_carhop-consent-order.pdf

____

Actions like this one are why consumers all over America are growing to LOVE our consumer watchdog agency, the CFBP. And why car dealers are trying to get special favors from Congress to stop the CFPB from being able to do its job.

Greedy car dealers and lenders are hell-bent on finding ways to keep profiting from the excessive interest charges paid by people who actually deserve to pay less, based on their credit histories.

Consumer protection groups like CARS are fighting back. If you were ripped off by Car Hop, we’d love to hear from you. Here’s where you can contact us:

http://carconsumers.org/contact.htm

Plus here are tips for how to get a good deal on a nice, safe used car — without getting scammed by a sleazy car dealer:

http://carconsumers.org/usedcarbuyingtips.htm

With best wishes for safe, happy motoring —

CARS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy a car – surrender your rights?

One more reason not to buy a car from a car dealer:  when you do, they force you to give up your right to sue them if they cheat you.  So say good-bye to being able to take advantage of consumer protection laws.

Think a dealer wouldn’t dare roll back the odometer? Think again. They just slip a clause in your contract that says you can’t sue. Then when you find out your low-mileage car actually has over 100,000 extra miles that “disappeared” from the odometer — good luck trying to sue them under the Federal Odometer Act.

Car dealers used to face tough sanctions, including punitive damages, for ripping off consumers. But with rare exceptions, those days are gone.  That’s because car dealers insert “arbitration” clauses into their contracts. Then, after you’ve been shopping, test-driving cars, and negotiating for an average of 4 hours, they shove a stack of documents across a desk and tell you to “sign here, here and here.”

What they don’t tell you is that when you sign, you are giving up your rights under state and federal consumer protection laws. So forget hauling them before a judge or jury, who can throw the book at them. Instead, if you get any hearing at all, it’s before an “arbitrator” whose company just happens to be paid by — you guessed it — the dealer.

Under rulings by the Republican majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, this is perfectly legal.

Ironically, the dealers got a special exemption from Congress that allows them to sue anyone they please. They’re free to use the courts. But you can’t.

Evidence is mounting about how biased and unfair arbitration is. Check out this new report, issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No wonder car dealers HATE this consumer watchdog agency. It shows how rigged the game is, when you buy a car from a dealer:

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report

Don’t end up like Jon Perz, who has been waiting over 7 years for justice, after a car dealer in San Diego sold him an unsafe car.

YouTube Video of used car nightmare — over 1.3 million views

Be a smart shopper. Check out CARS’ car-buying tips for how to get a safe, reliable used car — without having the hassle or risk of buying from a dealer:

CARS Used Car Buying Tips

Happy, safe car shopping!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One more reason NOT to buy a car from a car dealer

Even the auto dealers themselves have to admit:  many car buyers dread buying cars from auto dealers. Young people are especially wary.  And for good reason.

Car dealers keep selling unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers, putting them, their friends and family, and other motorists at risk of death or serious, debilitating injuries.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, they also insist that you surrender your Constitutional rights as part of the price of buying a car from them.

Good luck trying to buy a car from a dealer without a “gotcha” clause hidden in the contract that says you give up your Constitutional right to take them to court, and benefit from  our nation’s hard-won consumer protection laws. Like laws against rolling back odometers, selling “junk” cars that are advertised as being “in mint condition,” or engaging in other forms of cheating, lying, fraud, and thievery.

And get this:  the dealers got a special exemption from Congress — just for car dealers —  that allows them to keep THEIR Constitutional rights. So they can take anyone they want to court, and use the laws that benefit THEM. But they killed a bill that would have protected YOU from losing your rights when you sign on the dotted line to buy a car from them.

If you’re fed up with car dealers and their scams, check this out:

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Arbitration: What you don’t know about fine print can hurt you

And let your local car dealers know you’re not buying from them until they clean up their act, and you don’t have to surrender your rights to buy a car from them.

Car Title Loans — Get a Loan, Lose Your Car

Thinking about getting a car title loan, to tide you over? Don’t do it — unless you can afford to lose your car. Car title lenders trap consumers in loans they can’t afford, then take their cars.

Warns Tiffany Richardson, a Houston, Texas area nurse who lost both of her cars to a car title lender: “No matter how bad it gets, do not go.” — Texas Tribune, August 23, 2014.

Sometimes they refuse to accept payments made via phone or other means, in hopes you will default. Then they pounce, and grab your car. They make a killing when they get to collect payments from you, plus end up owning your car.

Car title lenders in California often lure consumers into loans bigger then they need. Why?  Because there is no cap on the interest they can charge for loans over $2500. So even if you want a loan of only $600, they will tell you that you should get a bigger loan, over $2500. That way,  they can charge you absurdly high interest rates — and are more likely to end up seizing your car.

Better alternatives:

Borrow from relatives

Get credit counseling from a non-profit credit counselor approved by the Federal Trade Commission who can help you figure out a better way to deal with debt

Sell your car and get a less expensive car, take public transportation, or rent a car while you get back on your feet

Read more:

Texas Tribune / NY Times report “Thousands in Texas lose cars to car title lenders”

 

Ally Bank ordered to pay $80 million to consumers harmed by discriminatory lending

More than 235,000 African-American, Hispanic, and Asian Pacific Islander borrowers, who were charged higher interest rates on their auto loans from Ally Bank, based on their race, stand to get back $80 million, thanks to courageous action by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and U.S. Department of Justice.

The consumer protection and law enforcement agencies are coordinating their efforts to curb discriminatory lending in auto loans, which cost car buyers billions of dollars in hidden extra fees, while fattening the profits made by lenders and auto dealers. This is the government’s largest auto loan discrimination settlement ever.

“Discrimination is a serious issue across every consumer credit market,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We are returning $80 million to hard-working consumers who paid more for their cars or trucks based on their race or national origin. We look forward to working closely with the Justice Department and Ally to make sure this serious issue will be addressed appropriately in the years ahead as well.”

Read more: CFPB and US DOJ order Ally to pay $80 million to car buyers

 

Car dealerships — fertile ground for ID thieves

How common is identity theft at auto dealerships?  According to a report in Automotive News, “Dealerships are targets for identity thieves — those working from both the inside and outside.” *  The report quotes Dave Robertson, executive director of the Association of Finance and Insurance Professionals:

“It’s still a major problem, but it’s not growing as fast.”

The report also quotes Maryann McKessy, Chief of the Fraud and Identity Theft Bureau of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, regarding auto dealerships:

“I hate to say it, but it’s a pretty common ground where information is breached.”

The FTC has issued “Red Flag” rules to try to curb identity theft at auto dealerships and among other creditors who handle people’s personal financial information. Dealers are being urged to train their employees to be on the lookout for identity thieves, including checking to see if the person in front of them looks like the photo on their driver’s license.

* Automotive News, Dec. 5, 2011

 

 

Car title loans — who pays, who makes a killing?

High-cost car title loans are illegal in most states. That’s because they’re so risky for borrowers, often ruining lives. Particularly when people lose their cars — usually their only way to get to work — and then their jobs.

In 2004, in response to a two-part series of front-page reports by David Lazarus in the San Francisco Chronicle, exposing the seedy but growing car title lending business, California legislators vowed to put a stop to title loans.  Fast-forward almost a decade, and what’s changed?  Nothing — except the shady, predatory businesses continue to expand and cost more consumers triple-digit interest, and often their vehicles.

How high is the default rate for car title loans? At a hearing before the California Assembly Banking Committee, Oscar Rodriguez, CEO of LoanMart, testified on behalf of the leading trade association for car title lenders operating in California.  When asked, point-blank, he admitted that while some lenders have default rates of 14-15%, others have rates up to 40-50%. This is astronomical, and powerful evidence that the loans are predatory — not designed to aid the borrowers, but to strip them of their only valuable material possession — their car.

California caps the interest rate on some loans below $2500. So title lenders skirt the law by talking consumers who seek smaller loans into getting loans over the $2500 threshold. Consumers naturally assume that must mean that they qualify to borrow more, based on their income or creditworthiness. In reality, their credit has nothing to do with the loan amount. As long as the lender can seize their car, and it’s worth much more than the loan, there’s no risk for the lender.  Of course, the bigger loan increases the risk for the borrower.

As the Attorney General of Florida warns: “Remember that a title loan is not risky for the lender but it may be very risky for you.”  How to protect yourself: title loans

So who benefits from car title lending? Award-winning journalist Gary Rivlin’s portrait of who’s living high off the hog thanks to high-cost loans, including car-title loans:

Portrait of a Subprime Lender

What can you do to avoid the car title lending trap?  If at all possible, save up instead of getting a loan. If that’s not possible, find other, less-risky ways to borrow money.  Some lower-risk options: Join a credit union. Seek loans from family members. Sell your car and buy a less-expensive one. Usually, you’re much better off selling it yourself than having it repossessed by a car title lender.

Read more:

Auto-title loans drawing scrutiny — Sacramento Bee, by Personal Finance Columnist Claudia Buck

‘Car-title loans’ a road to deep debt  — San Francisco Chronicle, by Business Reporter Carolyn Said

How to protect yourself: title loans — What else can you do in a pinch, that’s less risky? Advice from Florida’s Attorney General