Car dealership fraud is a big problem in California. It’s not uncommon for car dealership deceptive practices to cost California consumers millions of dollars every year.
Even the savviest of consumers can sometimes fall into car dealerships’ deceptive tactics. The deceptive tactics that car dealerships use generally fall under misrepresentation or omissions of important factual information about the vehicle purchase transaction, such as hidden fees and costs associated with the car and hiding the car’s mechanical or structural problems.
Don’t let a car dealership get away with its deceptive tactics. Find help with the best legal representation for your vehicle matter. Luis Aguirre is an experienced Car Dealership Fraud and lemon law attorney who can help you protect your rights against car dealerships’ deceptive tactics.
What is Car Dealership Fraud?
Generally, car dealership fraud schemes are more than just mistakes or errors that have been overlooked by the car dealership. However, some of these mistakes and errors are actionable too under California lemon laws. Most of these fraudulent schemes are statutorily outlawed in California, and some of these acts could sometimes be considered criminal.
Car dealerships have found ways to negligently or intentionally mislead consumers to buy a vehicle from them. Car dealerships may mislead consumers in financial ways by offering consumers hidden financial terms and conditions. Car dealerships may also mislead consumers by offering the consumer a car with hidden defects and, in some cases, major structural or mechanical problems that may make the car unsafe where the car dealership had a duty to disclose those safety mechanical or structural car defects.
When car dealerships engage in intentional misrepresentation, also known as fraud, they usually purposefully omit information they had a duty to disclose regarding a car before selling it to the consumer. In those instances, a car dealership intentionally withholds vital information from the consumer, such as car defects, recalls, and structural or mechanical problems the car has. In cases where a car dealership is found liable for civil fraud, the civil penalties can be steep, up to three times the value of the vehicle, and sometimes more.
Signs of Fraudulent Car Dealership Tactics
The retail car industry in California is heavily regulated, but this does not mean that all car dealerships abide by those regulations. These dealerships can still find ways to get the upper hand in transactions so that they benefit to the detriment of the consumer. Below are some examples of how car dealers use these unfair tactics to the detriment of the customer.
Vehicle Odometer Fraud
Odometer fraud occurs when the car dealership tampers with the vehicle odometer by rolling back the mileage or altering the odometer in a way that hides the factual vehicle mileage information.
Previously Damaged Vehicle
One of the most prevalent, either intentional misrepresentations, or negligent misrepresentations, made by California vehicle dealerships is where the dealership in the vehicle purchase contract represents to the consumer that the vehicle has never been in a vehicle collision or car accident, when in fact the vehicle has been in a vehicle collision or car accident. In that case, if the consumer, after purchasing the vehicle finds out that the vehicle had been in a collision prior to the consumer buying the vehicle from the dealership and the vehicle dealership represented otherwise, the consumer may not be without a legal remedy.
Contractual Vehicle Misrepresentations
This is the age-old bait and switch technique. For example, a “California vehicle dealership cannot negotiate the sale or lease to a California consumer of a vehicle under certain terms and then sell or lease the vehicle to the consumer under different terms by adding charges to the contract for goods or services without disclosing these goods or services, and without obtaining the consumer’s consent in writing. For example, some car dealerships are notorious for adding to the purchase or lease contract “extended warranties” or an alarm system. These “extras” have to be disclosed to the consumer, and the consumer has to consent in writing to these “extras.”
Vehicle Title Fraud
Vehicle title fraud has many forms. This scheme applies to salvaged and totaled vehicles, where there is a duty under California to brand the title as “salvage” and the title, is not branded as such. Vehicle title fraud can also have the form of a California auto dealership selling the consumer a previously repurchased lemon. Although this area of law is nuanced, under most circumstances, under California’s Lemon Law, a California dealership has a duty to disclose the fact that the vehicle they are selling the consumer was a vehicle manufacturer repurchased vehicle or lemon buyback.
As you can see, there’s no end as to how many tactics car dealerships can use to scam their customers intentionally. The list is limitless when you consider that it just boils down to a bit of craftiness and creativity on how they choose to run their scams.
Your Rights Under California Law
As a California consumer, you have actionable rights when purchasing a new or pre-owned vehicle. A lot of these rights are memorialized in the California Vehicle Buyers’ Bill of Rights and you can find an explanation about them here.
Auto Dealer Fraud Lawyer
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a fraudulent car dealership scheme, it is time to contact our law offices for a free consultation. Luis Aguirre is a California lemon law, vehicle breach of contract, and vehicle fraud attorney.
Attorney Luis Aguirre is a United States military veteran who served honorably in the United States Coast Guard. Luis Aguirre is a fierce fighter who has prosecuted vehicle law matters against major car manufacturers and car dealerships. Contact us today to obtain a free legal consultation.
Luis Aguirre California Lemon Law Attorney 26060 Acero Suite 111
Mission Viejo, CA 92691 Telephone: 949.342.6199.
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