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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CarMax sells unsafe, recalled cars

CarMax, the nation’s largest retailer of used cars, claims all its vehicles must pass a rigorous “125 point inspection.” It also advertises that all its cars are so-called “CarMax Quality Certified.”

But instead of living up to its hype, CarMax is selling LOTS of recalled cars with lethal safety defects. CarMax has a gambling addiction. It continues to play “recalled car roulette” with its customers’ lives.

Among the defects on cars waiting for sale on CarMax’s lots:

  • sticking accelerator pedals
  • catching on fire
  • hoods that fly up in traffic
  • faulty brakes
  • steering loss
  • stalling in traffic
  •  seat belts that fall apart in a crash
  • air bags that explode with excessive force and cause blindness or death

An ABC 20/20 undercover investigation found unrepaired recalled vehicles for sale on CarMax’s lot in Hartford, Connecticut. CarMax’s excuse? It can’t be bothered waiting for the FREE repairs.

GM “certified” cars face Federal scrutiny

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has confirmed that it is investigating advertising of General Motors’ “certified” used cars, regarding their safety recall status. The FTC is the first federal agency to take action to protect the public from car dealers’ sales of unrepaired recalled used cars. CARS applauds the FTC for acting to police vehicle safety in the used car market, under existing laws.

According to the Detroit News, “GM said it was notified June 3 of the investigation by the FTC that concerned “certified pre-owned vehicle advertising where dealers had certified vehicles allegedly needing recall repairs.”

CARS and our consumer group allies have been urging the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on CarMax, over its sales of unsafe, recalled used cars. CarMax is the largest retailer of used cars in the U.S. CarMax advertises that all its vehicles must pass a rigorous “125 – point inspection” to qualify to be sold as “CarMax Quality Certified” vehicles.

However, CarMax openly admits that it knowingly and deliberately sells cars that are being recalled by the manufacturer because they have lethal safety defects. CarMax neglects to ensure that the cars are repaired and safe to drive, before offering them for sale. The CARS Foundation and CALPIRG Education Fund recently issued the report “CarMax Is Endangering Lives in California” about the unsafe, recalled cars CarMax offered for sale in Oxnard and South Sacramento, CA.

New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs was the first local agency to crack down on car dealers’ sales of unsafe, recalled used cars, under a law in New York that requires dealers to certify that vehicles they offer for sale are roadworthy.

Read more: Detroit News: GM Faces FTC Investigation

 

CA on track to have the worst auto safety recall law in the nation

Greedy, unscrupulous car dealers are high-fiving themselves, as Democratic and Republic legislators in California continue to vote unanimously to legalize dealers’ sales of unsafe, recalled used cars with lethal safety defects to consumers.

Testifying against the car dealers’ bill: Cally Houck, who lost her two daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, ages 24 and 20, due to a recalled car.  A steering hose leaked, causing an under-hood fire and a loss of steering control.  The two sisters ended up colliding head-on with an 18-wheeler truck.

As their mother, Cally Houck, told legislators:  AB 287, the car dealers bill, “would protect dealers, not consumers.” The bill is being authored by Assemblymember Richard Gordon, who has said that his father and grandfather were car dealers.

Also testifying against the bill:  Mark Anderson, who testified on behalf of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. According to NACA, if the dealers win, California will become a dumping ground for unsafe, recalled cars that would be illegal for dealers to sell in other states.  That would translate into more fatalities and injuries, and higher risk for everyone who shares the roads.

According to the car dealers’ bill, the defect that killed Raechel and Jacquie would not be considered “serious.”

Read more:

Orange County Register: A record 64 million cars were recalled last year: Here’s what’s being done to make buying safer used cars

Ventura County Star: Capps introduces rental car bill named for Ojai sisters killed in crash

How serious are safety recalls?

How serious are auto safety recalls?  Ask anyone who has lost a family member, or been severely burned or rendered quadriplegic, as a result of a safety defect, and they can tell you that auto safety recalls should not be ignored.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is working to improve safety recall repair rates. Their goal:  getting 100% of recalled vehicles repaired, the sooner the better. Auto manufacturers are joining in that effort and turning to social media, offering discount coupons, and advertising about safety recalls in multiple languages. All in an effort to persuade consumers take their cars for recall repairs.

However, car dealers in California are so intent on maximizing their profits, they are doing something breathtakingly irresponsible. They are claiming, publicly, that only about 1% of safety recalls are serious. Seriously. Why? They don’t want to frighten people from buying millions of cars with lethal safety defects, like air bags that are prone to exploding with excessive force, spewing metal fragments into drivers’ and passengers’ faces and necks, and blinding them or severing arteries, so they bleed to death.

Just because the cars are unsafe, and there aren’t enough repair parts available to replace the defective air bags, dealers argue that shouldn’t interfere with their selling the unsafe cars to teenagers as their first cars, or to families with young children.

All the more reason not to by a used car from a dealer. Who wants to spend 4 hours on a car lot dickering over cars, only to end up with a vehicle that has a lethal safety defect, and no repair parts available for months on end?

Read more: CBS News: Feds seek ideas on getting more safety recalls done

Caught on video: new car dealer lobbyist admits why they killed bill that would have improved the law against dealers selling unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers.

CARS’ tips for buying a safe, reliable used car without having to set foot on a car dealer’s lot

 

Car Dealers seek to legalize sales of unsafe recalled used cars

Faced with record numbers of recalled cars and lengthy shortages of repair parts, car dealers are pushing aggressively to weaken state laws that prohibit them from deceiving their customers into buying used cars with lethal safety defects.

Car dealers are eager to foist the unsafe cars off onto their customers, knowing that there is no way they will be able to get the serious safety defects repaired, for months on end. In one horrific case, a father, mother, 13-year-old daughter and brother-in-law were all killed within hours after the dealer handed them the keys to an unsafe car. The publicity surrounding that case led to Toyota’s issuing a massive safety recall, and eventually paying a record fine. However, the dealers do not seem capable of learning from that tragic incident and its aftermath.

Federal law prohibits car dealers from selling recalled NEW cars to consumers until they have been repaired.  There is no similar, specific federal law that prohibits dealers from selling recalled USED cars to consumers. However, broader, more generic state laws in every state, and some federal laws, prohibit merchants, including car dealers, from engaging in fraud, false advertising, unfair and deceptive acts and practices, anti-competitive behavior, reckless endangerment, negligence, and other shady practices. In addition, a whole body of case law exists that prohibits such illicit conduct.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has charged some dealers with violating the federal law against selling recalled new cars to consumers. What’s next? Dealers trying to make that legal too?

KPIX-TV, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco, broadcast this news report about the car dealers’ highly controversial, anti-consumer, anti-safety bill in California. Be sure to watch for the reaction at the end, by the news anchors:

KPIX-TV: Car dealers fight back over recall disclosures

 

 

 

New York’s Julie Menin: Tackling Predatory Car Lenders

New York’s Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, Julie Menin, is determined to protect New Yorkers from predatory auto lending practices. Desperate used car buyers have been complaining to the agency, after they were cheated by unscrupulous car dealers who charged exorbitant interest rates for cars that often broke down soon after purchase, leaving them with ruined credit, deeper in debt, and without wheels.

According to the New York Times, auto loan debts sink many New Yorkers financially, averaging more than $12,000 — a burden that can prove impossible on an average annual income of just $36,000. Plus dealers commonly tack on high-priced add-ons that inflate the loans, without adding any value.

In response, the Department of Consumer Affairs is developing a “municipal auto loan initiative,” to allow troubled borrowers to get auto loans directly from a number of lenders on more consumer-friendly terms. This innovative approach promises to provide New Yorkers with lower-cost, less risky access to the cars they need to get to work.

The Department is insisting that interest rates on the loans be fixed, at 16% or less, and that any application fees may not exceed $25.

CARS wishes New York and its courageous pro-consumer Commissioner Julie Menin great success. We hope that this innovative new program thrives and helps lift up thousands of New Yorkers who would otherwise fall prey to dealers itching to exploit them.

Read more:

New York Times: New York City Starts Car Loan Program to Curb Abusive Practices

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Used car buyers have friends in the White House in auto safety battle

America’s used car buyers and our nation’s roads will be a lot safer if the Obama Administration wins the battle against shady car dealers who sell unsafe, recalled cars to used car buyers.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Dr. Mark Rosekind, are urging Congress to make it illegal for car dealers to sell unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers.

They joined the President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety at a press conference in Richmond, VA, along with representatives of Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis, and the American Car Rental Association, who have been working together with CARS to enact federal rental car safety legislation. Auto manufacturers (except GM) and car dealers are blocking the rental car safety bill, and lobbying Congress to weaken protections for America’s car buyers.

It is historic for a President and his safety team to call for people who rent cars, or purchase used cars, to have the same level of protection as new car buyers. Under federal law, it is illegal for car dealers to sell recalled cars with lethal safety defects to NEW car buyers. That has been the law since the 1960’s. But there is no similar federal law to protect people who rent cars or purchase used cars.

“What we need now is for Congress to step up, and to make renting or selling a recalled vehicle [to a consumer] illegal,” said Secretary Foxx.

Read more: US DOT safety recall news

Are car dealers providing unsafe loaner cars to owners of recalled cars?

U.S. Senators, like Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, have been urging Honda and Toyota and their dealers to provide loaner cars to customers with faulty Takata air bags, while they wait for repair parts to become available. Sounds like a good idea, right?

But — new car dealers have been vehemently opposing attempts to stop them from loaning out cars that have the exact same safety defects, or different defects, that have triggered a federal safety recall.

So — if you turn in your recalled Honda or Toyota at a Honda or Toyota dealership, and they hand you the keys to a loaner car, is it guaranteed to be any safer? NO!!!!

Here’s video of lobbyists for the new car dealers and CarMax opposing legislation in California that would have prohibited them from renting, selling or loaning unsafe, recalled used cars to consumers:

Car dealer lobbyists oppose safety bill in California

 

 

CarMax – Too Risky for Wise Investors?

Thinking of investing in CarMax? You may want to take a close look at their breathtakingly risky practice of selling unsafe, recalled cars to consumers.

CarMax is already under fire from consumer groups,  faces potential action by the Federal Trade Commission, and has been repeatedly exposed in undercover investigations by TV news organizations, including ABC’s 20/20, over its sales of unsafe, recalled cars to consumers.

Here’s the rub:  CarMax advertises that all their cars must pass a “rigorous 125+ point inspection” before they can be sold as “CarMax Quality Certified” cars.  But how can a car with a killer defect possibly pass a rigorous inspection and meet their standards?

Despite the mounting scrutiny, CarMax recklessly persists in selling “CarMax Quality Certified” unsafe, recalled cars at retail to consumers. Case in point:  Even when competitors like AutoNation have wisely announced their decision to cease selling used cars with unrepaired Takata air bags, CarMax continues to sell them anyway.

Defying common sense and responsible business practices, CarMax somehow seems unable to bring itself to stop selling consumers cars with the notoriously defective air bags, which can explode on impact, hurling shrapnel at the driver and front-seat passenger’s face and neck..  In cases that are making global headlines, the defective air bags have caused  serious injuries, including blindness, while other hapless victims have bled to death.

This particular defect  remains the focus of Congressional investigations in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Takata also faces possible legal action by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and by the US Department of Justice.

So — what does AutoNation know and take into account that CarMax doesn’t seem to grasp?

Is CarMax waiting for a total PR catastrophe, before they stop making that added bit of profit by selling lots of unsafe, defective, recalled cars to consumers, instead of having them repaired or selling them for a somewhat lower price, at wholesale?

Whatever CarMax’s motivation, wise investors may wish to rethink the company’s self-inflicted level of exposure.

 

ABC 20/20 exposes CarMax’s sales of damaged cars and unsafe, recalled cars

CarMax Admits It Sells Unsafe, Recalled Cars
So — how can a car that’s so unsafe pass their so-called  “rigorous 125+ point inspection”? No one seems to know…and CarMax refuses to go on camera…

From ABC NEWS RADIO:

” CarMax says it has transformed the used car buying experience with no haggling pricing and financing and its “125+ point” inspection process to make sure drivers don’t end up with a lemon. But consumer advocates say CarMax sales reps don’t always disclose the complete history and condition of the vehicles they sell.

A 20/20 investigation found instances on two CarMax lots where vehicles were being sold with reportedly significant accident histories or unrepaired safety recall issues….

When it came to outstanding safety recalls, the Hartford dealership salesman was recorded on hidden camera telling Benitez that CarMax is unable to sell a car with a major safety recall. “We can’t even sell it until that’s taken care of,” he said. “We take care of any kind of safety concern prior to the car even being out here.”

However, a check of a federal government website revealed that the Toyota Camry at the Hartford CarMax dealership had three outstanding safety recalls on it at the time of our visit, including one for a power switch that could overheat and melt, possibly resulting in a fire. Five other vehicles sitting on the lot also had unfixed safety recalls, according to the government website.

CarMax declined an interview but told 20/20 in a statement that it doesn’t automatically fix recall vehicles before selling them and only does so if a customer requests it. CarMax says it does inform consumers about any open recalls and recently upgraded its website so customers can look up open recalls online through the government database. CarMax also says it retrained its staff on its recall policy.

A coalition of consumer and safety groups filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission this June, urging the agency to investigate CarMax’s safety recall policy. Rosemary Shahan, head of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), is calling on the FTC to require CarMax to have all safety recall vehicles repaired before selling them to consumers. “CarMax sells vehicles that are under safety recall without bothering to fix them,” said Shahan. “If they wanted to do it right, it would be very easy for them to do it right.” (Emphasis added)

Read more: ABC 20/20:  What Do Some CarMax Sales Reps Tell  Consumers?