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Three NJ Auto Dealers Pony Up $400,000 To Resolve Ripoff Claims, Promise Not To Do It Again

Vehicle buyers have already been frustrated by supply chain issues – and now this.
Vehicle buyers have already been frustrated by supply chain issues – and now this. Photo Credit: Luigi Manga on Unsplash

Three New Jersey auto dealers accused of ripping off customers agreed to pay nearly $400,000 combined to end a state investigation while promising not to do it again, authorities announced.

Buyers of both new and used vehicles have already been frustrated by supply chain issues, Acting Attorney Matthew J. Platkin said in a joint release with the state Division of Consumer Affairs on Friday, May 20.

Now this.

“Dodging illegal practices should be the last thing New Jerseyans have to worry about as they search for a vehicle in this challenging market,” the attorney general said.

Platkin identified the companies as:

Open Road Auto Group, which operates more than a dozen locations in Wayne, Morristown, Newton, Roxbury, Union, Edison, East Brunswick, Florham Park and Bridgewater.

Glen Motors Inc. in Fair Lawn.

Lynnes dealerships — Lynnes Nissan East; Lynnes Hyundai and Lynnes Subaru, Inc. — all located in Bloomfield.

Various consumer protection laws that were violated, he said, included:

  • failing to disclose prior accident history;
  • deceptive advertising;
  • failing to honor vehicle warranties;
  • failing to list vehicle prices on sales documents;
  • charging consumers for certain fees twice;
  • failing to itemize aftermarket products or dealer-installed options;
  • failing to obtain consumer signatures on all sales documents;
  • accepting incomplete credit applications from prospective buyers.

In addition to the civil financial penalties, the dealerships “agreed to refrain from engaging in any unfair or deceptive acts or practices, comply with all applicable state and federal laws, and resolve consumer complaints,” the attorney general said.

Open Road Auto Group agreed to a $300,000 settlement to resolve an investigation into allegations of failing to disclose prior accident history, using deceptive advertising, and failing to honor vehicle warranties, Platkin said.

Under the terms of what’s known as an assurance of voluntary compliance, the group, among other things, agreed to provide a $100 service credit coupon towards service, maintenance, or repair for all consumers who purchased a vehicle in 2017 and were charged a wash and detail fee, he added.

The company will also enter binding arbitration to resolve all pending complaints from affected consumers and any additional consumer complaints received by state authorities over the next three years, the attorney general said.

(Other conditions that Open Road Auto must meet are listed at the bottom of this story.)

Glen Motors Inc. agreed to pay the state $90,000— which includes $66,088.98 in civil penalties — to resolve allegations that included failing to list the price of motor vehicles on its sales documents, failing to itemize aftermarket products or dealer-installed options, and failing to obtain consumer signatures on all sales documents, Platkin said.

Glen Motors also agreed to enter binding arbitration to resolve all pending complaints from affected consumers and any additional consumer complaints received by the Division for the next two years.

A portion of the settlement amount will be suspended and automatically vacated provided the company complies with the terms of the agreement over that tie span, the attorney general said.

(Other conditions that Glen Motors must meet are listed at the bottom of this story.)

Lynnes agreed to a $46,381 settlement — which includes $33,500 in civil penalties — to resolve allegations that included charging consumers for certain fees twice, accepting incomplete credit applications from prospective buyers, and failing to list vehicle prices on sales documents.

Lynnes also agreed to binding arbitration to resolve all pending complaints from affected consumers and to arbitrate, if necessary, any additional consumer complaints received by state authorities over the next two years.

A portion of the settlement amount will be suspended and automatically vacated provided the company complies with the terms of the agreement, Platkin said.

(Other conditions that Lynnes dealers must meet are listed at the bottom of this story.)

The cases were handled by the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the state Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group.

Assistant Section Chief and Deputy Attorney General Jesse J. Sierant represented the state in the Open Road matter; Deputy Attorney General Donna J. Dorgan represented the state in the Glen Motors matter; Deputy Attorney General Monisha A. Kumar represented the state in the Lynnes matter.

Investigators Kristen Reilley and Kelly Fennell of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigations.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.

******

In addition to the conditions listed above, Open Auto Group – under its agreement with the state – must:

• disclose the total cost, the down payment, trade-in or rebate, if any, plus the total scheduled periodic payments in the advertisement of installment sales of motor vehicles;

• include a statement that “prices include all costs to be paid by consumers, except for licensing costs, registration fees, and taxes,” in the advertisement of new or used motor vehicles;

• disclose in the advertisement that a motor vehicle had been previously damaged and that substantial repair or bodywork has been performed on it when such prior repair or bodywork is known or should have been known;

• refrain from charging customers for work done or parts supplied in excess of any estimate, without oral or written consent from the customer;

• accurately disclose the purchase price of any dealer-installed options;

• refrain from misrepresenting to consumers that aftermarket merchandise such as service contracts and window etch are mandatory;

• itemize all aftermarket merchandise on leases, sales documents and contracts;

• refrain from charging consumers separately for a “destination charge” on any advertised motor vehicle when the cost is already included in the advertised price; and

• provide consumers with an opportunity to review all lease documents prior to signing.

******

In addition to the conditions listed above, Glen Motors – under its agreement with the state – must:

• itemize all aftermarket products on the leases, sales documents and aftermarket contracts;

• provide consumers an aftermarket contract containing a clear statement of the full total price for such aftermarket products, including an itemization of the aftermarket products;

• refrain from charging consumers for aftermarket products that are not reflected in the leases, sales documents, or aftermarket contracts;

• provide consumers with a full and accurate copy of all leases, sales documents, and aftermarket contracts signed by the consumer;

• not misrepresent to consumers that dealer-installed options or aftermarket products are mandatory when such is not the case;

• itemize all pre-delivery services in writing on the sales document;

• refrain from adding or charging for aftermarket products or dealer-installed options without the consumers’ written authorization;

• honor all advertised motor vehicle prices, terms, and conditions; and

• obtain the consumers’ signatures on all aftermarket contracts, leases, retail buyer’s orders, sales documents, and any other document that requires the consumers’ signatures.

******

In addition to the conditions listed above, the Lynnes companies – under an agreement with the state – must:

• comply with all applicable state and/or federal laws, rules, and regulations, including the Consumer Fraud Act, the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations, and the Automotive Sales Practices Regulations;

• itemize all aftermarket merchandise and dealer-installed options in the sales documents and aftermarket contract;

• include the trade-in value of a vehicle on all sales documents;

• not engage in a “bait and switch” by refusing to show, display, sell, or lease vehicles at the advertised price, as required by the Consumer Fraud Act and the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations;

• accurately disclose the sale price of vehicles on the sales documents; and

• refrain from signing any aftermarket contract, lease, sales document, or other document on behalf of a consumer or affixing a consumer’s signature to any document.

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