The Division of Consumer Affairs has reached settlements in three separate consumer fraud investigations in the car sales industry.
Two auto dealers and one internet seller of parts and accessories all agreed to change their business practices, pay civil penalties, and agree to binding arbitration to resolve consumer complaints that they violated the Consumer Fraud Act and other laws.
“New Jersey consumers deserve to get what they pay for, whether they’re spending thousands of dollars on a vehicle at a dealership or paying a couple bucks for an auto part online,” said Attorney General Grewal in a statement. “As these settlements demonstrate, we will vigorously enforce the laws in place to protect consumers from fraud in the sale of autos and aftermarket parts and hold violators accountable.”
Auto Mall 46 Inc., Edison Motor Sales LLC, Hamilton Automotive Enterprises LLC, Route 46 Chrysler LLC, 46 Auto Imports LLC, Route 46 Subaru LLC, and Meadowlands Auto Sales LLC (Auto Mall 46 et al.), which collectively do business under 10 dealership names, allegedly misrepresented the price of cars, aftermarket merchandise, and dealer-installed options on contracts and documents. The dealerships allegedly altered the price on contracts to reflect an amount other than that paid by the consumer, omitted the price paid by the consumer on contracts, and listed the price as “N/A” when the consumer in fact did pay for them. The 10 dealerships also allegedly refused to sell vehicles at low prices they had advertised, and allegedly refused a refund to a buyer who was previously told refunds were allowed.
Auto Mall et al. will pay $219,927, including $200,000 in civil penalties, to resolve allegations that the dealerships violated the CFA, the Used Car Lemon Law, and associated regulations governing car sales and advertising.
Comfort Auto Group LLC of Hackettstown allegedly charged consumers for dealer-installed options and aftermarket merchandise that had been identified as free of charge, failed to provide a written warranty, and failed to include mandatory disclosure language in advertising. Comfort Auto Group has agreed to a $55,286 settlement, including $39,740 in civil penalties and $9,117 in consumer restitution.
Cranbury-based auto parts e-commerce business Onyx Enterprises Int’l Corp., which does business as as CARiD.com, allegedly failed to clearly post certain disclosures on its website relating to its cancellation, substitution, refund and return policies. It also misrepresented “100 percent satisfaction” and “easy returns” when certain items were not returnable and returns were allegedly not made easily. Onyx has agreed to a $28,696 settlement, including $16,000 in civil penalties.
“For many, buying a car is one of the biggest financial decisions of their lives. Keeping one in good working condition can be essential for maintaining a livelihood and taking care of loved ones. The Division takes consumer complaints very seriously. We vigorously investigate and take action against businesses whose deceptive practices undermine the integrity of New Jersey’s marketplace,” said Paul Rodríguez, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs in a statement. “The settlements announced today not only hold these businesses accountable for alleged illegal conduct, they put measures in place to help ensure compliance with the law going forward.”
All companies must make changes to their business practices to comply with federal and state consumer protection laws and regulations.