The FTC announced today that the agency has” reached an agreement with Richard Berry, the owner and manager of a group of bankrupt auto dealerships in Arizona and New Mexico, to resolve charges that he and the dealerships deceived consumers and falsified information on vehicle financing applications. Many of the affected consumers were members of the Navajo Nation.”
According to Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “When Berry’s auto dealerships falsified income and down payment information to qualify people for loans they couldn’t afford to pay back, they set people up for failure – including default, repossession, and ruined credit. That’s why the FTC sued Berry and his dealerships.”
In a news release, the FTC stated the following:
The FTC reached an earlier settlement with the four dealerships: Tate’s Auto Center of Winslow, Tate’s Automotive, Tate Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, and Tate’s Auto Center of Gallup. If approved by the district court, the present settlement against Berry, would result in a $450,000 payment to the FTC and conclude the FTC’s case.
The FTC’s complaint, filed in August 2018, alleged that the defendants falsified consumers’ income and down payment information to get vehicles financed and engaged in unlawful advertising. In an earlier ruling in the case, the judge found that the defendants violated the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) by failing to disclose legally required information in their advertisements.
In addition to the $450,000 payment, the proposed settlement prohibits Berry from misrepresenting information in documents associated with a consumer’s purchase, financing, or leasing of a motor vehicle, and misrepresenting the costs or any other material fact related to vehicle financing. The proposed order also requires Berry to provide consumers sufficient time to review and obtain a copy of the relevant vehicle financing documents and prohibits him from violating the TILA and CLA.”
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Car dealers are notorious for targeting people of color — including indigenous Americans, recent immigrants, and others they consider vulnerable — and cheating them, causing severe hardship and sometimes homelessness when their victims lose their only means of transportation to work / schooling / child care / medical care.
How can you avoid falling prey to a predatory auto dealer? Don’t even go there. Here are CARS’ tips for how to navigate the private market, and avoid the headaches and heartaches of buying at a “stealership.”