Compliance

FTC Act civil penalties rise based on inflation

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 

In combing through the Federal Register this week, the National Automobile Dealers Association found that the Federal Trade Commission recently announced increases to various civil penalties amounts within its jurisdiction to adjust for inflation.

In particular, that could be associated with collections and repossessions. The regulator stated that the penalties for violations of Section 5 of the FTC Act — which can include unfair or deceptive acts or practices — will increase.

The FTC indicated the penalties would jump from $40,654 to $41,484.

This section of the Federal Register also mentioned that knowing violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act would increase, too, climbing from $3,817 to $3,895.

The regulator reiterated that it made the moves by “implementing adjustments to the civil penalty amounts within its jurisdiction to account for inflation, as required by law.”

The actions adjusted the figures since the FTC made its most recent update last January.

The FTC certainly keeps a watchful eye on collections activities such as asking for comments about its current rules.

2 newest F&I Express executives each possess 20 years of experience

GRAPEVINE, Texas - 

F&I Express recently added two executives to its company team who each possess more than 20 years professional experience.

First, the company announced Gary Peek has joined the business team as chief information officer. Management highlighted that Peek will be a key contributor to the direction and planning of the strategic growth of F&I Express, including the development of expanded technology solutions to help continually drive innovation in the marketplace.

Officials added that Peek will be responsible for managing all aspects of information technology and shape product vision and technology strategy.

“I am excited to join F&I Express and be a part of the rapid growth that the company is experiencing and to work with Brian Reed, an automotive industry veteran,” Peek said.

“The F&I technologies that are being built for lenders, dealerships, and aftermarket providers is changing rapidly, and I am confident that F&I Express will continue to be at the forefront of companies providing software and services in this vertical,” Peek continued.

Peek brings more than 20 years of experience in the vertical market software industry including strategic planning, mergers and acquisitions, business development, and product and software engineering strategies to F&I Express.

Before he joined F&I Express, Peek served as the vice president of IT business solutions for Rent-A-Center (RAC), where he managed a large technology team providing application development, quality control, product management, solution architecture and enterprise data services across multiple business units.

Prior to RAC, Peek was responsible for strategy, business case development and global vendor management for technologies used by KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell restaurants outside the U.S. as the director of restaurant technology strategy for Yum Restaurants International.

Peek has also founded and grown highly successful software companies from the ground up with technologies primarily focused on the restaurant industry being used by companies around the globe.

F&I Express also welcomed Mike Llewellyn to the F&I Express team. As the Express Recoveries product manager, Llewellyn will be instrumental in supporting and leading the overall growth of the business for this complete solution for streamlined, compliant eCancellations.

The company indicated Llewellyn will work closely with customers and across technology and account management teams to ensure customer needs are met and solution strategies are successful.

“I am ecstatic to be part of the dynamic growth at F&I Express, joining this extremely passionate and talented team,” Llewellyn said.

“I am focused on further enhancing one of our best-in-class solutions, Express Recoveries, enabling lenders and dealers to obtain aftermarket product cancellations and refund data, while solving business problems that arise in our ever-changing marketplace landscape,” he continued.

Llewellyn has more than 20 years of experience in product management and a history of customer-centric focus in e-commerce environments.

Llewellyn held a number of roles at Sabre Airline Solutions before joining F&I Express, from manager of solution marketing ancillary sales to manager of solution marketing self-service to manager of e-commerce delivery. He successfully led e-commerce airline booking portals at global airlines as well as promoted new features driving an increase of ancillary revenues for airlines.

Llewellyn also reinvigorated the revolutionary MySabre agency point-of-sale portal with product enhancements, increasing adoption by 57 percent.

Prior to Sabre, Llewellyn was an account executive at American Airlines where he was recognized with both the Circle of Distinction and Bulls Eye awards for outstanding sales growth and visionary leadership.

“We are excited to welcome Gary Peek to our business team as chief information officer at F&I Express. He will be key to our strategic growth plan to expand and improve our technology solutions at an explosive rate,” said Reed, who is president and chief executive officer of F&I Express.

“Mike Llewellyn will be another valuable addition to the F&I Express team. We look forward to the contribution he will make to further develop the success of our eCancellation solution, Express Recoveries,” Reed added.

NAF Association, Hudson Cook and Compli to offer free webinar projecting Trump impact

HANOVER, Md. - 

The National Automotive Finance Association is teaming with Hudson Cook and Compli for a free webinar in an effort to answer some questions likely on the minds of leaders at dealerships and finance companies.

A trio of experts is looking to project how fair lending issues may be handled during the second year of the Trump administration as organizers said, “We’re polishing our crystal balls to help shed some light on what to possibly expect.

The webinar is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST on Thursday and features industry advisers Michael Benoit from Hudson Cook and Brian Larson and Kynzie Sims from Compli. Along with officials from the NAF Association, the group will discuss the important trends, updates, and changes possibly in store for fair lending enforcement in 2018.

Even if you have a conflict with the scheduled webinar, the NAF Association indicated the session is set to be recorded and all registrants will receive a path to recording.

To complete registration for this free webinar, go to this website

FICO hosting free webinar to share best practices in using automated communications

SAN JOSE, Calif. - 

It’s a new year, and FICO is hopeful 2018 will be filled with new customers coming into company portfolios.

In an effort to help institutions communicate with this new batch of contract holders, FICO is hosting a free educational webinar focused on sharing best practices in using automated communications throughout the auto finance customer lifecycle.

“New auto finance customers represent a tremendous opportunity,” FICO webinar organizers said.

“For banks, they represent an opportunity to establish new, multi-product relationships,” they continued. “For captive auto finance companies, they represent an opportunity to establish and/or strengthen that consumer’s affinity for their brand.

“But capitalizing on this opportunity requires a sophisticated, analytically-driven approach to communicating with new customers in order to establish profitable, long-term relationships,” organizers went on to say.

In this webinar set for 1 p.m. EST on Jan. 25, FICO plans to share best practices for applying automated, multi-channel communication capabilities to key, relationship-building moments across the auto lending lifecycle.

FICO highlighted attendees will learn:

• Strategies for driving engagement and establishing communication preferences during the customer onboarding process.

• Consumer preferences and best practices for pre-delinquency and early-stage collections communication with self-service options.

• New approaches for applying analytics, throughout the lifecycle, to improve customer interactions and lower operational expenses.

The webinar will be orchestrated by A.J. Travagline, who is a senior consultant at FICO.

Travagline has more than 25 years of retail banking experience, most recently as head of collections for EnterCard. In this role, he defined EnterCard’s customer-centric approach, which saw collections as an opportunity to build a stronger bond with customers. He focused on combining technology with customer insight to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Prior to joining EnterCard, Travagline led collection operations at FirstUSA and BarclayCard US and, before that, he led contact center operations for leading financial institutions such as MBNA America, ING Direct and HSBC.

Participants can register for the free webinar here.

F&I Express and F&I Administration Solutions partner to manage product cancellation process

GRAPEVINE, Texas - 

F&I Express and F&I Administration Solutions recently expanded their relationship to help finance companies, F&I product providers and dealerships improve their aftermarket product cancellation performance and compliance.

The companies highlighted that the integration of F&I Express and F&I Admin addresses the issues that have come forward in recent months about major problems finance companies are encountering with aftermarket product cancellations. Express Recoveries, F&I Express’ eCancellation solution, can help solve the issues and moves the manual process to an electronic connection between lenders and providers, which can allow for streamlined and compliant cancellations.

The Express Recoveries platform from F&I Express can enable finance companies to submit F&I product cancellation requests directly and simultaneously to dealers and product providers. The integrated Express Recoveries/F&I Admin platform can create an electronic network that accelerates the processing and recovery of refunds for cancelled F&I products.

In addition, the companies pointed out that full cancellation lifecycle reporting can improve the ability of lenders to comply with the changing regulatory environment and to better service their dealer and consumer customers.

Rich Apicella, general manager of the Express Recoveries program at F&I Express, said, “Lenders require access to data from their product provider and dealer partners to fulfill their regulatory obligations for product cancellations.

"By offering an integrated platform, the F&I Express and F&I Admin team provides the tools and market transparency so that lenders, product providers and dealers can work together more efficiently to ensure consumers receive the product cancellation refunds they are entitled to,” Apicella continued.

The companies went on to mention finance companies are held legally liable by state and federal regulators to process cancellations in a compliant and timely manner. Finance companies that are using the Express Recoveries solution have authorized F&I Express to securely manage their cancellation process.

“We are very pleased to be the first to work with F&I Express to develop this electronic solution to a problem that has been in existence for many years,” said Kumar Kathinokkula, chief operating officer of F&I Admin. “Not only will this streamline the process and ensure lenders can deliver to their regulatory requirements, but this will also add significant efficiencies to our F&I product administrator customers.”

For more information, visit fandiexpress.com.

FTC reaches settlement with Texas Toyota dealer over deceptive ads in Spanish newspaper

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 

The complexities of advertising finance terms in a language other than English landed a dealership in regulatory problems with the Federal Trade Commission.

Cowboy AG, a Dallas company doing business as Cowboy Toyota and Cowboy Scion, recently agreed to settle FTC charges that it deceptively advertised financing and leasing terms in ads placed in a regional Spanish-language newspaper.

The FTC’s administrative complaint charged that Cowboy Toyota ran full-page Spanish-language ads claiming that consumers could buy or lease a vehicle at certain favorable terms that were prominently stated in Spanish in the ads, with material limitations to those terms provided only in fine-print English at the bottom of the ads. The complaint alleged the dealerships violated the FTC Act by misrepresenting many claims, including that:

—No down payment was required.

—The advertised low monthly payments were available to consumers who financed their purchases.

—The advertised interest rates, monthly payments and other terms were available to consumers with bad credit.

—Certain new 2016 Toyotas were available for purchase at the time of the ads in 2017.

According to the FTC, Cowboy Toyota’s misrepresentation of the cost of purchasing or leasing vehicles, qualifications or restrictions for financing or leasing vehicles, and the availability of cars violated the FTC Act. Officials indicated the dealership also failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose credit or lease terms they are required to state under the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) or the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) when they touted certain “triggering” terms of the credit or lease, such as the monthly payment.

Officials believe the proposed order settling the FTC’s charges will ensure that Cowboy Toyota does not engage in the deceptive conduct alleged in the commission’s complaint in the future.

First, the order prohibits the dealership from misrepresenting the cost of financing or buying a vehicle, including terms related to the amount or percentage of the total price needed for a down payment, the number of payments required over the full financing term, and the amount of any payment or repayment obligation over the loan term, including any balloon payment.

Next, the order prohibits Cowboy Toyota from misrepresenting the cost of leasing a vehicle, including the total amount due at lease inception, the down payment required, the acquisition fee, any other payments required at the beginning of the lease and the amount of all monthly payments over the term of the lease. The order also requires the dealership to accurately represent any qualifications or restrictions on a consumer’s ability to obtain offered financing or lease terms, including restrictions based on their credit history.

Furthermore, the order instructs Cowboy Toyota to clearly and conspicuously disclose all financing and lease terms in its ads, as well as all related qualifications or restrictions. In addition, if most consumers likely will not qualify for the credit rate advertised, the order requires the dealership to clearly and conspicuously disclose that fact. It also requires that if a representation is made in one language, any material limitations must also be made in the same language.

Also, the order prohibits Cowboy Toyota from misrepresenting the number of vehicles, makes, or models that are available for purchase or lease, and bars them from violating TILA and its implementing Regulation Z by requiring clear and conspicuous disclosures regarding a variety of purchase or lease terms, including the percentage of any down payment required, the amount of any payment, the amount any finance charge, the terms of loan repayment and the annual percentage rate (APR) associated with a loan.

Finally, the order instructs Cowboy Toyota to comply with the CLA and its implementing Regulation M by prohibiting deceptive lease advertisements and requiring that all ads clearly and conspicuously disclose a range of facts, including that the advertised deal is a lease, the total amount due on delivery, the number and timing of scheduled payments, and whether or not a security deposit is required.

The commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and to accept the consent agreement was 2-0.

The FTC reiterated that the regulator issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions.

Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $40,654.

 

Though CFPB is in flux, compliance efforts still benefit auto finance providers

ATLANTA - 

Even before the wrangling over who will lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau intensified earlier this week, Craig Nazzaro emphasized that the heavy compliance lifting done by auto finance companies still has plenty of value.

Nazzaro, who is of counsel in the Atlanta office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, made the point before a federal judge scheduled a hearing as the court conflict continues since Richard Cordray departed the CFPB at the end of November.

“I believe the controls that were put in place by the auto finance companies will remain valuable in the future,” Nazzaro said in a message to SubPrime Auto Finance News. “While the new director can have an immediate effect on the supervision and enforcement activities of the bureau, he cannot immediately repeal any rules and/or regulations.

“Those within the industry that have conformed to all guidance and/or updated their practices to be in line with various enforcement actions and continue to do so will remain positioned to be less of a CFPB target,” he continued. “I would caution against those in the industry who believe that a new director means that compliance with existing regulations can be relaxed. Remember that the CFPB is staffed with examiners and staff attorneys who believe in the bureau’s mission. That approach cannot be turned around on Day One.

“If your entity is non-compliant with regulations that are currently in place, you will still face a great deal of regulatory risk, no matter who the director is,” Nazzaro went on to say. “The biggest change, I believe, that we will see is that the CFPB should cease to overstep its authority. For example, we should not see any future rules with the scope we saw in the arbitration rule or enforcement actions with the new interpretation of industry practices with absurd fines like we did in the PHH matter.”

Undoubtedly, auto finance compliance department will be watching what develops out of the court system. Washington D.C. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly scheduled preliminary injunction hearing for Dec. 22 as the court clash continues between Mick Mulvaney, who President Trump installed as the temporary CFPB director; and Leandra English, who was selected the bureau’s deputy director just before Cordray departed on his way toward running for governor in Ohio.

In light of the attention the CFPB has created since its inception, SubPrime Auto Finance News asked Nazzaro if he was surprised, and why or why not, in the way Cordray departed the agency and how a new director was established.

“I was not surprised about the timing, but was surprised how haphazard the choice and promotion of Leandra English to deputy director seemed to be,” Nazzaro continued. “Director Cordray knew the choice and the manner of the promotion would be attacked, and the choice seemed to have very little strategic planning behind it, making it easier to attack.” 

Nazzaro also shared what element of the CFPB’s future he plans to watch the closest and why going forward.

“In the short term, I am interested in the pace and structure of the enforcement actions that are announced. I will be analyzing which entities they choose to move forward against and the severity of those actions,” he said.

“I am also looking forward to seeing if there will be a noticeable change in the tone and approach to their supervision activity,” Nazzaro continued.

“For the long term, I will be looking to see if the single director structure can be successfully challenged,” he went on to say. “The choice of Mick Mulvaney, the anti-Cordray, will wind up sustaining the partisan approach the CFPB has taken in years past and will not lead to even-keeled, logical regulation that the industry will need for growth.” 

TCPA update: Courts deliver mixed bag on customer consent and call outsourcing

ATLANTA - 

Having increased in number each of the past seven years, lawsuits alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) continue to plague the consumer finance industry. As should be expected with an already complex statutory scheme, recent decisions have had a decidedly mixed effect, increasing potential exposure in some jurisdictions, while limiting it in others. The courts have generally focused on a couple of areas.

First, the bulk of the TCPA focuses on situations in which companies are required to obtain consent from consumers in order to use automated dialing equipment or pre-recorded voices to call consumer's cellular telephones (generally, marketing calls require written consent where non-marketing calls require oral consent). Most cases thus hinge on whether consent was given and when and how it was allegedly revoked. In one recent ground-breaking decision, Reyes v. Lincoln Automotive, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that consent may not be revoked where that consent forms part of the bargained-for exchange.

The borrower in Reyes financed the purchase of a car and signed a lease agreement which included a provision expressly permitting telephone calls made by prerecorded or artificial voice messages as well as calls using an automatic telephone dialing system. In affirming the denial of the borrower's TCPA claim, the Second Circuit concluded that if the decision led to the consumer finance industry including similar provisions in all consumer contracts — thereby arguably eviscerating the protections under the TCPA — that is a public policy issue that should be resolved by Congress.

While the Reyes decision was helpful to the industry, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reached a recent decision that was markedly less helpful. In Schweitzer v. Comenity Bank, the Eleventh Circuit found that a borrower was entitled to a jury trial on the issue of partial or conditional revocation of consent where she stated the following in a telephone call with her credit card company: “If you guys cannot call me, like in the morning and during the work day, because I'm working, and I can't really be talking about these things while I'm at work. My phone is ringing off the hook with you guys calling me.”

The trial court granted the lender summary judgment on the ground that the statement was so vague and unspecific that no reasonable jury could find that it effectively revoked her consent. The Eleventh Circuit overturned this decision and remanded the case for a jury trial. While the court acknowledged the logistical challenges that could arise from a lender's efforts to comply with such a complicated revocation, the court simply stated that a creditor can always decide to simply stop making telephone calls to the borrower at all.

Another issue receiving attention from courts across the country is third party or vicarious liability under the TCPA. These cases typically arise when a company outsources marketing activity to a third party.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just issued an opinion in Jones et al. v. All American Auto Protection, et al. that included a lengthy analysis on this very issue. The Court concluded that a company's liability for a third party's calls is a fact specific question that focuses on the control executed by the company. Rather than issue a bright line rule, the court cited ten factors that should be considered including, inter alia, the control and supervision exerted by the company, whether the third party is engaged in an independent business, whether the company provides tools and instrumentalities, and the length of the contract.

While the company avoided third-party TCPA liability in this specific case, the message is clear. Consumer finance companies must remain vigilant and require all third-party marketing companies with whom they contract to comply with the TCPA.

Dylan Howard is a shareholder in the Atlanta office of Baker Donelson. He has more than 13 years of experience defending banks, mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers and other financial institutions in trial and appellate cases in Georgia state and federal courts. He can be reached at dhoward@bakerdonelson.com.

CFPB update: Auto finance bulletin now subject to Congressional review

WASHINGTON, D.C. - 

The flurry of activity associated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, its leadership and the regulation of auto financing intensified again this week.

On Tuesday, Washington D.C. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly scheduled preliminary injunction hearing for Dec. 22 as the court clash continues between Mick Mulvaney, who President Trump installed as the temporary CFPB director; and Leandra English, who was selected the bureau’s deputy director just before Richard Cordray departed on his way toward running for governor in Ohio.

Then, Thomas Armstrong, general counsel for the Government Accountability Office (GAO), delivered a letter to Sen. Patrick Toomey indicating that the bulletin the CFPB issued back in 2013 involving indirect auto financing and compliance with the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) actually is a “rule” for purposes of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). This ultimately means that it must be submitted to Congress for review.

“GAO’s decision makes clear that the CFPB’s back-door effort to regulate auto loans, which was based on a dubious legal justification, did not comply with the Congressional Review Act,” said Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican.

“GAO’s decision is an important reminder that agencies have a responsibility to live up to their obligations under the law,” he continued. “When they don't, Congress should hold them accountable. I intend to do everything in my power to repeal this ill-conceived rule using the Congressional Review Act.”

Part of what triggered the bulletin issued in March 2013 was the CFPB’s contention about discriminatory issues arising in connection with dealer markup when a customer applies for financing through the dealership’s F&I office to the store’s network of finance companies.

Armstrong explained that the CFPB discusses the legal theories under which indirect auto finance companies that are determined to be creditors under ECOA could be held liable for pricing disparities on a prohibited basis when such disparities exist within an indirect auto lender’s portfolio. 

Armstrong wrote in the letter available here that, “In its final section, the bulletin states that indirect auto lenders ‘should take steps to ensure that they are operating in compliance with the ECOA and Regulation B as applied to dealer markup and compensation policies,’ and then lists a variety of steps and tools that lenders may wish to use to address significant fair lending risks.”

Armstrong made several other points in the letter to Toomey that could interest finance companies and dealerships.

“At issue here is whether a nonbinding general statement of policy, which provides guidance on how CFPB will exercise its discretionary enforcement powers, is a rule under CRA. CFPB states, and we agree, that the Bulletin ‘is a non-binding guidance document’ that ‘identifies potential risk areas and provides general suggestions for compliance’ with ECOA and Regulation B.  Moreover, the bulletin is a general statement of policy that offers clarity and guidance on the bureau’s discretionary enforcement approach,” Armstrong wrote.

Armstrong also explained that the CRA excludes three categories of rules from coverage, including:

—Rules of particular applicability

—Rules relating to agency management or personnel

—Rules of agency organization, procedure  or practice that do not substantially affect the rights or obligations of non-agency parties

“CFPB did not raise any claims that the bulletin would not be a rule under CRA pursuant to any of the three exceptions, and we can readily conclude that the bulletin does not fall within any of the those exceptions. The bulletin is of general and not particular applicability, does not relate to agency management or personnel, and is not a rule of agency organization, procedure or practice,” Armstrong wrote.

“The bulletin is a general statement of policy designed to assist indirect auto lenders to ensure that they are operating in compliance with ECOA and Regulation B, as applied to dealer markup and compensation policies.  As such, it is a rule subject to the requirements of CRA,” he went on to state.

Depending on how lawmakers assess the bulletin, plenty of action could involve the CFPB director; a position that has been in flux since Cordray said he would be departing the bureau.

Kelly’s decision is continuing the matter that initially triggered a ruling on Nov. 28 against English in her motion for a temporary restraining order against Mulvaney as acting director of the CFPB.

No matter what happens in court, Consumer Bankers Association president and chief executive officer Richard Hunt continues to maintain how the bureau should be led by more than just a single person.

“We look forward to working with acting CFPB director Mick Mulvaney to bring transparent and balanced consumer protections to all customers and small businesses. Many actions conducted previously by the CFPB as well as those that are pending warrant a thorough review and we support Mr. Mulvaney’s previous comments concerning a five-person bipartisan commission,” Hunt said.

“If the CFPB were structured as a bipartisan commission, as originally intended, we could have avoided this circus,” Hunt continued. “A Senate-confirmed, bipartisan commission at the CFPB would ensure consumers benefit from a fair and accountable rulemaking process. Having a sole director structure, with unilateral rulemaking authority, does not provide the long-term stability and certainty consumers deserve.”

3 finance companies settle with NYC’s consumer agency for more than $300K

NEW YORK - 

Back in October, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a package of legislation giving the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) additional regulatory muscle to combat what officials described as “predatory financing practices in the used-vehicle industry.”

While those new laws go into effect in February, DCA already showed it’s ready to flex its power, finalizing settlement agreements last week with three auto finance companies that specialize in subprime paper — Credit Acceptance Corp., Clover Commercial Corp., and Westlake Financial Services.

The settlement is associated with contracts containing rates as high as 24.9 percent booked through a group of Brooklyn independent dealerships. In total, DCA secured $311,260.57 in restitution for 50 consumers.

In May, DCA charged the dealerships — USA1 Auto Sales, Lenden Used Car Sales, D&A Guaranteed Auto Sales and Linden Used Cars — and their owners with deceptive and unlawful trade practices, including misleading consumers about the price of vehicle, concealing and misrepresenting the terms of sale and financing and failing to inspect the vehicles.

Officials explained Credit Acceptance, Clover Commercial and Westlake Financial Services have agreed to:

— Reimburse $311,260.57 to 50 consumers who were in high-interest agreements with the dealerships and whose contracts were assigned to the finance companies. Consumers who owe money will receive a credit to their account and any amount beyond what is owed will be paid via check. Consumers who no longer owe any money will also receive a check

— Provide restitution to eligible consumers who file new complaints about USA 1 Auto Sales, Lenden Used Car Sales, D&A Guaranteed Auto Sales and Linden Used Cars before March 11, allowing even more consumers the opportunity to benefit from the agreements

— Safeguard consumers by requesting that consumer reporting agencies delete any negative information that was reported in an effort to help repair the consumers’ damaged credit

 DCA encouraged consumers who allegedly were harmed by these dealerships to file a complaint before March 11 so that they can potentially be included in the settlements and receive restitution.

“Thanks to DCA’s efforts, all three financing companies have agreed to pay restitution to consumers who were burdened with exorbitant interest rates on loans they received through these deceptive dealerships,” DCA commissioner Lorelei Salas said.

“The city will not tolerate predatory financing and sales practices. We will continue to hold dealerships and financing companies accountable in an effort to protect innocent New Yorkers from purchasing unusable cars and loans that place excessive financial burdens on themselves and their family members,” Salas continued.

DCA currently licenses 666 dealerships and has received nearly 5,800 complaints from consumers about dealerships during the past four years. Officials indicated the complaints range from instances of forgery on contracts to a dealership’s failure to provide material disclosures to consumers.

As a result of the mediation of consumer complaints, investigations and settlements, DCA has secured more than $2.7 million in consumer restitution and assessed nearly $1.8 million in fines against dealerships over the past three years.

In March, DCA announced charges against Major World, one of the largest independent dealerships in the city with multiple locations in Queens, for engaging in deceptive financing and sales practices that resulted in predatory financing targeting immigrants and New Yorkers with low incomes. Enforcement is one prong of DCA’s efforts to combat these predatory practices, which also includes education and advocacy.

And as mentioned earlier, New York’s mayor got into the fray during the fall as the laws de Blasio signed require dealerships to post a Consumer Bill of Rights and to disclose other information about the vehicle price and financing terms; provide required notices to the consumer in the language used to negotiate the contract; and provide consumers with the option to cancel their contract within two business days of the sale.

This package of legislation was introduced by council member Rafael Espinal Jr., chair of the council committee on consumer affairs, council member Dan Garodnick, and council member Jumaane Williams, following a public hearing hosted by Salas and Espinal.

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