More Than $100,000 in Consumer Restitution Secured from the Financing Company in Pending Case Against the Dealership
Edited by: JV Staff
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas announced last week that the Agency has closed Champion Auto Sales of Utica Avenue, LLC (1942 Utica Avenue) in Brooklyn for repeated unlicensed activity. The used car dealership’s license expired on July 31, 2019 and they received a violation for unlicensed activity in August. The dealership pleaded guilty to the unlicensed activity and agreed to get a license. When Champion applied for a new license, the owner lied about past enforcement against the company and owner and failed to respond to DCWP’s requests for documents, so DCWP had to deny the application. Despite not having a license, Champion, which has a history of deceptive practices and a pending DCWP lawsuit against them, has continued to operate illegally.
“Champion cannot continue to flout the City’s laws and prey on New Yorkers,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “Champion lied on their license application and, we believe, they lied to consumers about everything from the prices of their cars to the condition of their cars. They are not fit to operate in New York City.”
In May, DCWP filed charges against Champion Auto Sales, which has locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx, along with their owners, at the City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) alleging numerous violations, including violations of the City’s new laws and rules designed to prevent predatory lending by the industry.
DCWP also sought and secured consumer restitution from a lending institution that financed the transactions that resulted from the dealerships’ illegal marketing and business practices. DCWP recently entered into a settlement agreement that requires the company to pay $105,289 to 11 consumers, including two who returned their cars for a full refund. The settlement agreement also requires the company to help repair the consumers’ damaged credit by requesting that consumer reporting agencies delete any negative information that was reported and to attempt to resolve any future consumer complaints.
With auto loan debt at an all-time high (Federal Reserve Bank of New York), DCWP has sought different approaches to make consumers whole. By seeking restitution from finance companies, which, by contract, subject themselves to a consumer’s claims against the dealerships, DCWP provides victims of dealerships’ deceptive practices an alternative method to be compensated. Deceptive and illegal practices by dealerships hurt both consumers and lenders, and lenders would be wise to scrutinize the dealerships with which they do business.
DCWP currently licenses 571 used car dealerships citywide, and it has received nearly 8,500 complaints about the industry since 2014. Since 2014, DCWP has conducted 3,500 inspections of used car dealerships and issued nearly 1,400 violations, most of which were for unlicensed activity, failing to post required signs, and parking vehicles on the sidewalk or road. As a result of mediating complaints, charging businesses with violations of the law and rules, and executing settlements, DCWP has secured nearly $3.3 million in consumer restitution and more than $1.8 million in fines against used car dealerships in the past five years.
DCWP encourages New Yorkers who are looking to buy a used car to read the Used Car Consumer Bill of Rights, which dealerships are required to post and give to each consumer before they sign a sales contract. The Bill of Rights must be provided to the consumer in the language in which the contract was negotiated if the translation is available on DCWP’s website. Any consumer who has had a problem with a used car dealership should file a complaint by visiting nyc.gov/dcwp or contacting 311. New Yorkers who are trying to get their finances in order before buying a car or who are struggling with debt can make an appointment for free, one-on-one financial counseling at one of the City’s Financial Empowerment Centers by calling 311 or online at nyc.gov/TalkMoney.
The NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.