The Fair Housing Testing Program conducted by the Department of Justice led to a lawsuit against a Maryland independent dealer.
On Monday, officials filed a lawsuit alleging that defendant Guaranteed Auto Sales along with its owner and manager, defendants Kelly Ann West and Robert Chesgreen, respectively, violated the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act by offering different terms of credit based on race to those seeking to purchase and finance used vehicles in Glen Burnie, Md.
The Justice Department said the lawsuit is based on the results of testing the department’s Fair Housing Testing Program, in which individuals pose as prospective car buyers to gather information about possible discriminatory practices.
The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, alleges that defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination by offering less favorable auto-finance terms to African American testers than white testers.
Most significantly, officials said the complaint alleges that employees of Guaranteed Auto Sales told African American testers that they needed larger down payments than white testers for the same used cars, and told African American testers that they were required to fund their down payments in one lump sum, while they gave white testers an option of paying in two installments.
“Using race as a factor in determining credit terms, including the amount of down payment that a customer must pay, is despicable and illegal,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division.
“By filing this lawsuit, the Justice Department is acting to ensure that all individuals are treated equally regardless of their race as they seek information about auto financing terms and apply for credit,” Dreiband continued in a news release.
The federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits lending discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, because an applicant receives income from a public assistance program, or because an applicant has in good faith exercised any right under the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The Justice Department’s enforcement of fair lending laws is conducted by the Civil Rights Division’s Housing and Civil Enforcement Section.
Additional information about the section’s fair lending enforcement can be found at www.justice.gov/fairhousing.