Consumer, safety groups fight back against car dealer “license to kill” legislation in New Jersey

Unscrupulous car dealers got New Jersey Senator James Beach and Assemblymember Louis Greenwald to carry anti-consumer, anti-safety, anti-enviroment legislation that threatens to open the floodgates for car dealers to sell hazardous recalled used cars in New Jersey, endangering the lives of their customers, their families and other passengers, and all who share the roads.

The bills would also allow New Jersey car dealers to sell vehicles that fail to comply with federal clean air / emissions standards.

The bills, S2740 and A4292, are the epitome of special-interest legislation.  “Coincidentally,” the owners of the Foulke car dealerships in Cherry Hill, NJ, contributed over $500,000 to a leadership PAC controlled by NJ Democratic power broker George Norcross shortly before the elections in NJ last November. So some politicians, such as Senate President Steve Sweeney, are likely to feel beholden to them for winning their seats.

The Foulke car dealerships have come under fire from NJ’s Attorney General for allegedly engaging in a number of illegal practices, and have been enjoined from engaging in such activity.

Assemblymember Greenwald, author of A4292, also has close ties with auto dealers, and has carried legislation that favors car dealers before.

The “license to kill” bills in NJ are similar to other measures that legislators have rejected in other states where car dealers got them introduced. Most recently, the car dealers’ bills were withdrawn in New York and Massachusetts, once lawmakers realized how harmful they would be.  Similar bills have also been defeated, or had the harmful provisions removed, in California, Maryland, Oregon, and Virginia. New Jersey legislators rejected a similar measure authored by Assemblymember Moriarty in 2015.

There is overwhelming public opposition to allowing car dealers to sell recalled used cars, with or without “disclosure,” which merely shifts legal liability onto victims. Statewide polling in New Jersey found that hardly anyone thinks such a law would be a good idea.

The car dealer “license to kill” bills are opposed by the nation’s leading consumer / auto safety organizations, plus major consumer, civil rights, and environmental groups in New Jersey, and the New Jersey State Bar Association.

They are also opposed by safety advocate Alexander Brangman, whose daughter Jewel was only 26 when she was killed by an unrepaired recalled Honda Civic with an exploding Takata airbag. She was in a low-speed collision involving multiple cars. Everyone else walked away. But the defective Takata airbag spewed metal fragments into the passenger compartment, severing an artery in Jewel’s neck, causing her to bleed to death.

The only supporters of the anti-consumer bills are trade associations for car dealers, who seek to evade legal liability for engaging in fraud and selling deathtrap cars. Attorneys for car dealers have advised them that the legislation is needed in order to eliminate the existing protections under various state laws, which prohibit auto dealers from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts and practices, violating express or implied warranties, committing fraud by misrepresenting the condition of the car or concealing a material fact such as the safety recall status, failing to fulfill their common law duty of care, being negligent, or causing wrongful death.

The New Jersey bills are even worse than in other states, because they would also drastically limit attorneys fees for victims of fraud committed by car dealers, making it virtually impossible for individual attorneys or the state’s Attorney General to act, regardless how harmful and widespread the car dealers’ practices are, or how many victims are harmed.

That means that even if the dealers fail to “disclose” the safety recalls, and make false claims about the safety of the cars they sell, they can evade being held accountable.

Here are some of the letters of opposition to the car dealer bills:

Consumer Federation of America, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, National Association of Consumer Advocates, Consumer Action, and The Safety Institute

Center for Auto Safety

Alexander Brangman, father of Jewel Brangman, who was killed by an unrepaired recalled car

New Jersey State Bar Association

Consumers Union

New Jersey Citizen Action, Sierra Club of New Jersey, NAACP New Jersey, The Latino Action Network, Ironbound Community Corporation, La Casa De Don Pedro, New Jersey Tenants Organization, Environment New Jersey, American Federation of Teachers Local 2274 Ramapo College of New Jersey

Consumers League of New Jersey

Pam Fischer, founder of the New Jersey Teen Safe Driving Coalition and former Director of the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety

Garden State Bar Association

News reports:

Philadelphia Inquirer: N.J. considers a consumer bill that only car dealers love

News 12 Investigates: Car recall bill may provide less protection in legal disputes

News 12 Investigates:  Groups oppose bill to require auto dealers to notify buyers about recalls

NJ101.5 Radio: Consumer groups fear the backhand effects of New Jersey car recall legislation

NJTV: Would new bill harm or help consumers buying used cars?

Editorial:

NJ Star-Ledger Editorial Board: Hit the Brakes on Bill Favoring Auto Dealers

 

 

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.

New car dealers’ hidden ties to “buy-here, pay-here” dealerships

New car dealers like to project the image that they are above engaging in shady practices prevalent at “buy-here pay here” auto dealerships. Among the shameful litany: charging exorbitant interest rates and selling junk cars  that break down soon after purchase, only to be repossessed when the hapless owners can’t drive them, lose income, and fall behind on payments. Then re-selling the same cars over and over again — a practice known as “churning”  —  making a killing on each transaction, and often trapping multiple consumers into paying for the same car.

“Buy-here, pay-here” sales tactics were painstakingly documented in an award-winning series by Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Bensinger, who examined over 2 million records and exposed who the worst “churners” are among “buy-here, pay-here” dealers in California.

But — the reality is that thousands of new car dealers own “buy-here, pay-here” car lots. According to Automotive News, of 20,000 members of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, ” ‘just under 10%’ are franchised new-car dealers who have joined under their franchised dealership name or under the names of their separate buy-here, pay-here operations.” — Automotive News, July 22, 2013