Auto Fraud

Deceptive and unfair practices are simply business as usual to too many car dearlerships. As a result, consumers lose billions of dollars every year to auto fraud. Common forms of auto fraud include odometer tampering, failure to disclose vehicle history, sale of stolen or illegally imported vehicles, false representation of pricing or the history of a vehicle, arbitrary and undisclosed price raises during the sale process, and bogus fees and charges tacked onto the sale of a vehicle. The methods of these dishonest salespeople are as creative and varied as they are illegal. If you have fallen victim to them, you may be able to file a suit against them and recover damages, costs, and attorney’s fees from them.  Call us for a review of you case!

To avoid fraud, especially if it is a used or “pre-owned” car, it is always worth the extra time and money to have a trusted auto mechanic or body repair specialist look over the automobile before buying. There are many who provide this service.  Go to Google and or Craig’s list and look under automotive services.  

However, if you have already fallen victim to an unscrupulous dealer, contact us as soon as possible to discuss a possible case. Please note that we do charge a consultation fee to review a case.  This is necessary because the time involved in reviewing documents and the sheer number of requests that take up our time.  Also, be sure to file a complaint with the Florida Department of Consumer Services.

Former Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a series of changes to the state’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Unfortunately for consumers, the new law creates a complicated notice requirement that means a longer waiting period before pursuing the dealership in a court of law. The law took effect July 1, 2013.  But, you must receive the notice from the dealer to be bound by it; otherwise, it does not apply.

The law states, in part, that, before a consumer can sue an auto dealer for deceptive and unfair trade practices, the following conditions must be met:

  • The consumer must send a demand or claim letter to the dealer 30 days before any suit is filed or arbitration is demanded.
  • The demand letter must state the consumer’s name, address, and telephone number, the name and address of the car dealer; describe the underlying facts of the claim; list and describe each item for which actual damages are claimed; and state the total actual damages claimed (or if the consumer does not know the exact amount of the damages, a best estimate).
  • The consumer must include, as best as they can gather, all transactions or other documents upon which the claim is based.
  • The claim letter must be sent by certified mail with return receipt via US mail or another recognized national US carrier, to the address where the vehicle was purchased or leased, the address where the transaction occurred, or any address at which the dealer regularly conducts business.
  • The demand letter expires 30 days after receipt.  This means the consumer can file suit if no response is made after 30 days receipt of the letter or notice.
  • If within 30 days after receipt of the claim letter, the dealership pays the consumer the amount of the actual damages plus a surcharge of $500 or 10 percent of the damages claimed (whichever is less), the consumer is precluded from initiating litigation or arbitration. Additionally, the dealer admits no fault if payment is made within the 30 days. 
  • The dealer is to provide the consumer a claim form with specific language concerning this new law. If the dealer fails to do so, the requirement for a pre-suit letter is waived. The language provided to the consumer must be as follows:

Quick tip: use the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System to check the history of a car you’re considering purchasing.

“Section 501.98, Florida Statutes, requires that, at least 30 days before bringing any claim against a motor vehicle dealer for an unfair or deceptive trade practice, a consumer must provide the dealer with a written demand letter stating the name, address, and telephone number of the consumer; the name and address of the dealer; a description of the facts that serve as the basis for the claim; the amount of damages; and copies of any documents in the possession of the consumer which relate to the claim. Such notice must be delivered by the United States Postal Service or by a nationally recognized carrier, return receipt requested, to the address where the subject vehicle was purchased or leased or where the subject transaction occurred, or an address at which the dealer regularly conducts business.”

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