The Massachusetts attorney general recently landed a judgment against an independent dealership totalling nearly $1 million for nearly a half dozen allegations.
Attorney general Maura Healey recently announced this judgment includes restitution to consumers to resolve allegations that the dealership in Framingham, Mass., engaged in unfair and deceptive sales practices that violated Massachusetts consumer protection law.
According to a news release, the dealership and its owner have agreed to pay $925,000.
According to the AG’s complaint, filed along with a consent judgment that was entered in Middlesex Superior Court, New England AutoMax Inc., AutoMax Preowned Inc., and Auto Max Inc. (AutoMax) and their owner Howard Wilner allegedly violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting important information about the condition, origin, and history of used vehicles it sold, selling add-on service contracts to consumers that did not cover the vehicles they were purchasing, falsifying down payments and adding undisclosed fees onto retail transactions.
“AutoMax and its owner purposely kept their customers in the dark about the condition and history of the cars they sold and charged customers illegal and unnecessary fees,” Healey said. “As a result of this settlement, customers who were misled by AutoMax will get money back and the company will stop its illegal practices.”
The AG’s office said it began its investigation after receiving several complaints about unfair sales practices at AutoMax, including selling cars with invalid add-on warranties and padding sales with undisclosed fees or charges. The attorney general also alleged the company and its owner engaged in unfair and deceptive acts, including:
— Failing to comply with mandatory requirements to disclose when vehicles were previously used as a lease, rental, or taxicab in advertisements and on purchase contracts.
— Misrepresenting that cars manufactured for the Canadian market were covered by a manufacturer’s warranty and selling additional add-on service contracts at a cost of up to $3,000 that were invalid due to the foreign origin of the vehicles.
— Adding hidden charges of $100 to $200 for customers seeking to trade in vehicles and pay off their existing contract as part of a sale.
— Falsifying down payments on financing applications.
— Charging document preparation fees for the preparation of documents that the company used to implement its deceptive schemes.
Under the terms of the consent judgment, AutoMax and Wilner will pay $750,000 in restitution for affected consumers and agreed to significant injunctive terms, including that the business comply with prior use disclosure regulations, disclose the foreign origin of the cars they sell and the implications on any warranty or add-on products, and ensure accuracy when completing consumer loan applications. The business is also prohibited from charging customers undisclosed or inflated fees.
Additionally, the consent judgment includes a $175,000 suspended penalty for any violation of the settlement’s injunctive terms within three years.