NEW JERSEY – Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the Division of Consumer Affairs (the “Division”) Thursday announced that they have reached settlements with two car dealerships resolving alleged violations of the Consumer Fraud Act (“CFA”), the Used Car Lemon Law, and other regulations governing the sale and advertising of motor vehicles. Both dealerships have agreed to change their business practices, pay civil penalties, and enter binding arbitration to resolve consumer complaints.
“Buying a car is one of the biggest purchases most consumers make in their lifetimes, and buyers shouldn’t have to worry about being misled by deceptive practices,” Grewal said. “Holding these businesses accountable shows how seriously we take consumer complaints and our duty to enforce the laws in place to ensure transparency and honesty in New Jersey’s marketplace.”
Auto Holding, Inc. d/b/a Auto Holding and Auto Holding 46 (“Auto Holding”), with locations in Hillside and Mountain Lakes (Morris County), agreed to a $105,000 settlement – which includes $97,345 in civil penalties – to resolve allegations that the dealership violated the CFA, and other consumer protection laws and regulations by:
- misrepresenting the condition of its used motor vehicles, telling at least one customer that vehicles were serviced and/or inspected prior to sale, when that was not the case;
- failing to disclose prior damage and rental history when such information was known or should have been known by the dealership;
- misrepresenting the prior history and use of its used motor vehicles, showing at least one customer a clean Carfax report when in fact the true report revealed prior accident and rental history;
- failing to honor the advertised price, requiring consumers to present a copy of the online advertisement and obtain a manager’s signature to receive the advertised price; and
- failing to pay off a third-party warranty after selling the warranty to a customer.
In a consent order with the Division, Auto Holding also agreed to enter binding arbitration to resolve 21 complaints from affected consumers and any additional consumer complaints received by the Division for a period of one year. Under the terms of the order, $30,000 in civil penalties will be suspended and automatically vacated at the expiration of one year provided Auto Holding complies with the terms of the consent order and does not engage in any acts or practices in violation of the CFA.
Bridge Dealer Services, Inc. d/b/a Bridge Auto Group and Everybody Drivez (“Bridge Auto”), in Hasbrouck Heights and Berlin, agreed to a $60,000 settlement – which includes $54,780.23 in civil penalties – to resolve allegations that the dealership violated the CFA as well as other consumer protection laws and regulations by:
- failing to include the mandatory disclosure language in advertisements;
- misrepresenting its Better Business Bureau and Yelp ratings on the company’s website;
- failing to disclose prior damage to its used vehicles when such information was known our should have been known by the dealership;
- charging consumers for pre-delivery services, including dealer preparation fees, without itemizing on the sales document the cost of each specific service; and
- failing to provide consumers with a written warranty, as required by the Used Car Lemon Law.
In a consent order with the Division, Bridge Auto also agreed to enter binding arbitration to resolve any additional consumer complaints received by the Division for a period of one year. Under the terms of the order, $25,000 in civil penalties will be suspended and automatically vacated at the expiration of two years, provided Bridge Auto complies with the terms of the consent order and does not engage in any acts or practices in violation of the CFA.
“Consumers should be able to rely on the information and vehicle history provided by a dealership when buying a used car,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “These settlements are an example of our commitment to protect consumers from fraud, and to ensure businesses disclose all the information required by law, allowing consumers to make informed decisions before purchasing a vehicle.”
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or call 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.