May 4, 2022 By Christian Murray
A Woodside-based company with used-car dealerships on Northern Boulevard has entered into a $375,000 settlement with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection after being accused of bilking its customers out of thousands of dollars.
JF Motors, which is headquartered at 60-20 Northern Blvd., advertised its vehicles online at highly-competitive prices—only to charge consumers thousands more through bogus fees.
The company—which operates Automania as well as Luxury Automotive Club on Northern Boulevard—has agreed to pay $225,000 in total restitution to its customers and $150,000 in civil penalties. The company has also agreed to surrender its licenses, preventing it from operating a used car dealership for at least two years.
As part of the settlement, 16 consumers are getting restitution totaling $199,600, leaving $25,400 available for new complainants.
“Preying on New Yorkers looking to buy a used car is not only unacceptable, it’s illegal. With this settlement, we’ve taken swift action to hold these shady dealerships accountable,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams in a statement.
According to the complaint, JF Motors would hike the price well above the specials it was offering online. For instance, in one case, it advertised an “internet special price” of $15,795, then added bogus fees—bringing the sale price to $23,780, according to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP).
The DCWP said the dealerships also marketed many of their vehicles as “Certified Pre-owned,” when they were not.
They used the certification to hike the price, since a CPO vehicle typically sells for about $1,000 more than the same model with no certification, according to the complaint.
The dealerships also charged an illegal mandatory “certification fee,” a practice in violation of consumer protection laws. In some cases, the bogus certification fee was $3,000 or more– even though the vehicles weren’t truly certified.
CPO vehicles are required to go through a 125-point inspection by a qualified mechanic. Furthermore, buyers of CPO vehicles receive a 10-year/100,000 warranty and are given a vehicle history report.
The JF Motors dealerships, however, did not make repairs when CPO vehicles broke down—often with issues that should have been discovered during the 125-point inspection, according to the complaint.
There were also cases of random bogus fees, according to the complaint. Some were charged for tire and wheel insurance or theft deterrent systems. They were not itemized on the sales contract—just added to the price.
One buyer discovered he was charged $1,979 for a theft deterrent system that was never requested or installed, according to the complaint.
“When New Yorkers buy a used car, they expect to get a fair and honest deal,” said DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga. “With this settlement, we are delivering thousands of dollars in restitution for the victims of JF Motors and sending a clear message to the used car industry that DCWP will hold them accountable if they choose to deceive their customers.”
The DCWP encourages New Yorkers who are looking to buy a used car to read the Used Car Consumer Bill of Rights, which dealerships are required to post and give to each consumer before they sign a sales contract.
The Bill of Rights must be provided to the consumer in the language in which the contract was negotiated.
Anyone going to jail? Seems like a slap on the wrist.