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The Consumer Law Group, P.C.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some initial questions many clients have when they first contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.. The questions below can address many initial concerns you may have. If you don't find the answers here, you may contact us for answers to more complex questions or questions specific to your case.

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  • What is a vehicle purchase add-on and how could it be considered auto fraud?

    Car dealers engage in all kinds of deceptive practices. From misleading advertisements to odometer tampering, a dishonest dealer A Copy of a Vehicle Purchase Agreementhas lots of tricks up his sleeve to sell you a car for more than what it’s worth or get you to agree to additional products or services you don’t need. These products and services are called purchase add-ons and include things like extended warranties, payment programs, guaranteed automotive protection (GAP insurance), credit life insurance, road service, undercoating, and theft protection. While these products may be legitimate, if you are unaware that they have been added to your purchase, you may have been a victim of auto fraud.

    Recent Examples of Dishonest Add-On Practices

    A recent crackdown on deceptive practices by automotive dealerships by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) resulted in the discovery of a major financing company and a dealership engaging in unscrupulous add-on practices. Understanding what happened in two major cases can help consumers be more aware of how this could happen to them.

    • National Payment Network (NPN, Inc.). The FTC found that this company, based in northern California, sold an auto loan payment program to consumers, promising they would save money over the life of their loans when, in fact, they charged such high fees for the service that possible savings were cancelled out. Fees to enroll in the service averaged $775 for a standard five-year auto loan. NPN has been ordered to refund more than $1.5 million to consumers and waive another $949,000 in fees to current customers.

    • Matt Blatt Dealerships. This chain of New Jersey dealerships was found to have participated in NPN’s deception by selling their services to their customers and failing to explain the additional costs. The dealerships received a commission of $1000 for each customer it enrolled in the program. Matt Blatt Dealerships was ordered to pay $185,000 to the FTC for its involvement in the scam.

    Avoid Unwanted Add-Ons

    Hopefully, the dealership you are doing business with is honest and straightforward about the additional products and services they offer. There is nothing wrong with a salesperson offering you an extended warranty or roadside assistance, but he or she must be honest about the cost and what the cost covers. Before entering a dealership, learn about products like warranties, theft protection, and undercoating and decide whether you want them or not. Do not allow yourself to be talked into something you know you don’t need. If you find you have been coerced or tricked into purchasing an add-on, contact the experienced auto fraud attorneys at The Consumer Law Group. We’ve seen it all and we can help you understand if you have been the victim of fraud.

     

  • What is arbitration and why is it bad for consumers?

    How many times have you agreed to the terms and conditions of a purchase or contract without actually reading what you have Arbitration agreed to? We do it all the time. Those agreements are long and hard to understand, so many of us skip over them without even thinking about what it could mean later on. We simply sign on the dotted line or click the “I Agree” button and forget about it. However, since a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, many of those agreements now contain a clause that takes away the signer’s right to sue if something goes wrong with the product or service you are buying. Instead of suing the company for damages, you have agreed to take the issue to arbitration.

    What’s So Bad About Arbitration?

    When a legal issue is decided by arbitration, the courts are taken out of the equation. Instead of a judge presiding over your case, a neutral party, called an arbitrator, hears both sides and makes a ruling. The ruling by the arbitrator is legally binding. Also, most states cap the amount of money that can be awarded in arbitration. Disadvantages to the consumer in the arbitration process include the following:

    • The defendant often picks the arbitration company and the arbitrator, who is not required to have a legal background or to consider legal precedent in his or her decision, and is paid by the defendant.  Therefore the arbitrator may be biased.

    • The decision is kept private, so there is no way to learn about similar complaints against a company.

    • The process does not allow for an appeal or for any other legal action related to the issue, even if the decision is blatantly unfair.

    • The consumer sometimes has to pay a share of the arbitrator’s charges and the arbitrator can order the consumer to pay all of the charges, which can be thousands of dollars.

    • Arbitration clauses often also prohibit class action lawsuits, which is often the only means consumers have to take on large corporations for unfair practices.

    What Can You Do?

    Clearly, the arbitration process favors the corporation, not the consumer. So what can you do to protect yourself? First, read the fine print. Whenever possible, especially with large purchases, do not agree to a contract that takes away your right to sue. The clause will sound something like, “You or we may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration. Claims are decided by a neutral arbitrator.” This will be difficult as almost every agreement you sign these days—car loans and leases, credit cards, insurance policies, bank accounts, student loads, and nursing home agreements—includes an arbitration clause. Major companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Groupon, Verizon, and Chrysler also have these clauses in their agreements. If you do become a victim of an arbitration scam, make some noise. As consumers who took on the arbitration clause at General Mills discovered, consumers can organize a protest and make themselves heard. If you are confused by what to do when faced with an arbitration clause, call The Consumer Law Group at 804-282-7900 to get your questions answered.

     

  • What is a “credit reporting agency” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)?

    Although the law is fairly clear about the rights of consumers, it isn’t always easy for the average person to make sense of the language of the law. One term you might see a lot as you look into your credit rights under the law is “credit reporting agency.” But what does that really mean for the consumer?

    Understanding “Credit Reporting Agencies” and “Information Suppliers”

    For the purposes of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a “credit reporting agency” is any legal entity—such as a company or a person—who reports or collects your credit information. This can include:

    • Credit bureaus, like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
    • The person or company that furnishes credit information for employment background checks
    • The person or company that furnishes credit information to landlords
    • Any person or company that collects, sells, or makes decisions about your credit information
     

    Additionally, you have probably also seen the term “information supplier” as you’ve been researching your consumer rights or how to fix your credit report. Under the FCRA, “information suppliers” are the companies and other legal entities that give credit information to the credit reporting agencies, such as a company or legal entity that you owe money to. Both credit reporting agencies and information suppliers owe certain obligations to consumers under the FCRA, and consumers are given the right to take action when these entities violate their rights.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed with legal language and complex laws, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help. There are many incidents of credit reporting agencies and information suppliers around the nation violating the FCRA, but many consumers are unaware that they have options for protecting themselves and their credit history. 

    Confused About Your Rights and How You Can Take Action? Get Experienced Help Today

    If you need help protecting and fighting for your consumer rights, don’t wait any longer to get experienced help. At the Consumer Law Group, we help individuals speak up for their rights against companies and creditors, and we take pride in our history of successful cases. We can carefully explain your options and your rights—in language you understand—and make sure that you can make informed decisions about your situation. For immediate assistance with your concerns, you can call us today at 804-282-7900 or fill out the convenient contact form on this page.

  • Should I use the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Line lemon law program?

    Purchasing a brand new car only to discover that you have a lemon is a disappointing and frustrating experience. Motor vehicles are expensive and most people buy brand new cars infrequently. When you do make that investment, you have a right to expect that the vehicle will work as the dealer promised it would. If you discover that you have been stuck with a lemon, you have various options available to protect your legal rights. You may also be entitled to protections provided under Virginia’s lemon law.

    An Overview of the Better Business Bureau Auto Line Lemon Law Program

    One such option available to many consumers is to utilize the Better Business Bureau’s Auto Line lemon law program. The following is an overview of the program:

    • The program is free and offered nationwide.
    • The program is designed to resolve new vehicle warranty disputes.
    • The program uses mediation to help consumers who have lemon law claims. If mediation does not work, arbitration is used.
    • The program uses trained arbitrators to conduct hearings that are attended by both the consumer and the vehicle’s manufacturer.
    • Consumers have the ability to either accept or decline the arbitrator’s decision.
    • If the consumer accepts the decision, the manufacturer must accept it as well.
    • Most vehicle manufacturers participate in the program.
    • A decision is usually rendered within three business days.
    • If the arbitrator deems the vehicle a lemon, you are entitled to a refund or replacement.
    • However, the arbitrator must abide by rules dictated by the manufacturer, which are located in the manufacturer's "Program Summary".   Check your vehicle's "Program Summary" to see if the remedy you seek is one the manufacturer agrees to provide in the event the arbitrator rules for you.

    Before proceeding with this method, it is crucial that you consult with an experienced legal advisor. We are here to provide you with the guidance that you need during this process. We encourage you to contact us today for more information at 804-282-7900.

     

  • How do I know if I am a victim of auto fraud?

    When you buy a car, truck, or motorcycle, most consumers would like to believe that all dealers are going to handle the transaction with integrity and honesty. Unfortunately, however, that is not always the case. Some dealers utilize fraudulent and deceptive tactics during the vehicle purchasing process. Consumers who fall victim to auto fraud must take action in order to protect their legal rights.

    3 Times During the Car Purchasing Process When Auto Fraud Can Occur

    Auto fraud can occur at virtually any point in the car buying process. Common stages at which auto fraud occurs include the following:

    1. Advertising
    2. Negotiation of the vehicle price
    3. Negotiation of the financial terms for the purchase or lease

    Auto fraud also comes in many different forms. Some of the more common techniques used in an auto dealer fraud scam include the following:

    1. Bait and switch advertising practices
    2. Deceptive inflation of a vehicle’s price
    3. Failing to disclose information about a vehicle
    4. Misrepresentation about the interest rate you were approved for by the lender the dealer "shopped" your proposal to

    Some consumers confuse auto fraud matters with violations of Virginia’s lemon law. The two are not the same, however. While both auto fraud cases and lemon law cases involve automobiles, auto fraud cases involved improper tactics used by a car dealer during the vehicle sale process. Lemon law cases pertain to defects or problems with the vehicle itself.

    If you believe you may have been a victim of auto fraud, it is important to take action in order to protect your legal rights. We are here to provide guidance. We encourage you to contact us today for more information at 804-282-7900.

     

  • How long will an unpaid debt remain on my credit report?

    Negative information appearing on a credit report can easily happen to virtually anyone. You may forget to pay a bill, not receive your mail, or undergo an unfortunate and unexpected expense that you cannot afford to pay, such as a medical bill. The end result may be that the creditor reports a late or missing payment, resulting in negative information on your credit report and a weakened overall credit score. Fortunately for consumers, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that this negative information be removed after a certain period of time.

    4 Questions for Determining How Long Negative Information Can Remain On Your Credit Report

    If you have negative information on your credit report and are trying to determine when it might be removed, it is important to consider the following questions:

    1. What was the date of the first delinquency? Generally, most negative marks on your credit report must be removed seven years from the date of the last scheduled payment.
    2. Did you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy? If so, the information relating to the bankruptcy can remain on your report for ten years. After that date, it must be removed.
    3. Did a creditor or other party obtain a judgment against you? Most judgments can only remain on your credit report for seven years. Some states, however, have statutes of limitations that allow for judgments to remain on your report for a longer period of time. If your judgment was issued in such a state, it can remain on your credit report for the longer period of time.
    4. Is the negative information relating to money that is owed to or guaranteed by the government? In these cases, the negative information can remain on your credit report forever, or until seven years after the date on which it was paid off. Examples include unpaid taxes and student loans.

    If information is wrongly report on your credit report, you may be entitled to pursue legal action. In addition, you may also be entitled to damages if a debt collector uses illegal debt collection practices against you. We are here to help you protect your credit report and deal with harassment from creditors. We encourage you to contact us today for more information at 804- 282-7900.

  • Am I entitled to damages if someone violated my rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

    In today’s world, a person’s credit score is crucial to being able to do anything from renting an apartment to purchasing a car. Consumers are entitled to protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) since their credit report is so important to daily life. When a party violates consumer rights under FCRA, consumers may be entitled to damages.

    Parties Responsible for Damages Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act

    Several rules are laid out under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This includes rules as to who can access the report, what can be reported, how long it can be on a credit report, and what must happen if a consumer disputes the information. Violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act may result in legal action. Parties who are potentially liable to a consumer under FCRA include the following:

    1. The credit reporting agency, also known as the credit bureau
    2. The party furnishing the information to the credit reporting agencies, whether it is a business or an individual
    3. The entity using the information in the credit report, such as an employer, landlord, or creditor who accesses your report with out verbal or written permission or an employer that accesses your report and takes an adverse action without providing a copy of the report to you.  

    It is important to understand which party may be responsible in the event that your rights under the Act are violated.

    4 Types of Damages for a Fair Credit Reporting Act Violation

    If a violation does occur, consumers may be entitled to the following damages:

    1. Actual damages. There is no limit to this amount, as long as you can prove the loss.
    2. Statutory damages. These damages range between $100 and $1,000. Consumers can take advantage of statutory damages even without proving that the violation caused you harm.
    3. Punitive damages, with no limit on how much. Punitive damages are decided by the court overseeing the proceeding.
    4. Attorney’s fees and costs.

    In addition to obtaining damages for violations relating to your credit report, you may also be entitled to damages if a debt collector uses illegal debt collection practices against you. We are here to help. We encourage you to contact us today for more information at 804-282-7900.

     

  • What should I do in order to protect myself before purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle?

    Purchasing a new or used vehicle is rarely an easy and stress-free process. For some consumers, purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle provides much-needed peace of mind. Dealers or manufacturers may offer certified pre-owned programs wherein vehicles are marketed as having met certain safety and performance standards following a detailed inspection. These vehicles may also come with an extended warranty. But before purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle, it is crucial for you to arm yourself with knowledge. This can be done by ensuring that the details of the particular certified pre-owned vehicle program are fully understood, as well as other typical measures such as reviewing the used car history report and having the car checked by an independent mechanic.

    5 Things to Know Before Purchasing a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

    Before purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle, it is important to learn more about the following:

    1. Be sure that you fully understand what is being “certified.” The exact nature of the inspection process as part of a certified pre-owned vehicle program varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.  Some are more stringent than others.
    2. Know whether you are obtaining an extension of the manufacturer’s bumper-to-bumper warranty on the vehicle. If so, it is important to understand the details of the warranty. For example, many certified pre-owned vehicle programs offer extensions that last for one year or 12,000 miles.  They also may not cover any pre-existing problems that are present, but not noticeable at the time of purchase.
    3. Understand whether you are obtaining an extension of the manufacturer’s power train warranty. The power train on a vehicle consists of the engine, transmission and drive train. If you are purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle that comes with an extended power train warranty, only those parts making up the power train will be covered in the event of an issue.
    4. Recognize whether you are receiving any type of warranty at all. Some manufacturers do not give consumers any warranty for the purchase of a certified pre-owned vehicle except for a service contract or agreement. It is important to understand that a service contract is not the same thing as an extended warranty. Service contracts are more similar to insurance policies, and unfortunately, consumers may have fewer available legal remedies with regard to service contract issues than they do with a vehicle’s warranty.   These service contracts almost always exclude problems at the time of purchase, whether noticeable or not, and prior wreck damage may void the service contract entirely.
    5. Understand whether it is the car dealer or the manufacturer that is certifying the pre-owned vehicle.

    Did you purchase a certified pre-owned vehicle that later proved to be defective? We can help. We encourage you to contact us today for more information at 804-282-7900.

     

  • How can I avoid being a victim of fraud when purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle?

    When a dealer or manufacturer puts a used vehicle through an inspection and makes repairs to ensure the vehicle is running properly, it can then be sold as a certified pre-owned vehicle. Many consumers are willing to pay more for this type of vehicle under the assumption that it is in better shape than others. However, some auto dealers take advantage of consumers by selling vehicles as certified pre-owned when these vehicles have a history of performance problems.

    6 Guidelines When Purchasing a Certified Pre-Owned Vehicle

    How can you avoid becoming the victim of auto fraud as a result of a certified pre-owned scam? Here are six helpful tips:

    1. Demand to see and inspect both the front and back of the vehicle’s title. Before you sign the purchase contract the mileage statement on that title should match the vehicle’s odometer. In addition, the title should not state that the car has a history of performance issues; and you should not see the following words and phrases: “salvage,” “junk,” “rebuilt,” “flood,” “recovered theft,” or “lemon law buyback.”
    2. Know that a pre-owned certified vehicle may have been involved in a wreck or flood, and it may have received serious damage.
    3. Request that the dealer provide you with a free used car history report. Call the reporting service to verify that the report has not been altered. You may also wish to conduct a free search at the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) website. If the report indicates no prior accidents, the car may still have been in one. Have a witness with you and get the salesman to verify it has not been damaged or in an accident and if he or she will not, have it taken to a body shop of your choice and pay them to examine the vehicle and tell you about any damage they can find.
    4. Have used cars checked by a mechanic before purchasing. The vehicle should be checked thoroughly, preferably by someone who is experienced in auto body repair.
    5. Ensure that any deposit you make on the vehicle before it’s inspected will be refunded. Bring a person with you who can verify the statements of the salesman. Check that the paperwork you sign clearly guarantees this refund. Consider using a credit card to make the deposit payment because a card often makes it easier to dispute fraudulent charges.
    6. Contact your attorney immediately if you buy a certified pre-owned vehicle and discover it had previous problems that were not disclosed to you. He or she can help ensure that your legal rights are protected.

    If you purchased a vehicle and it is defective, it is important to act quickly in order to protect your legal rights. We encourage you to contact us today for more information at 804-282-7900.

     

  • Do I have to use a manufacturer’s informal dispute settlement procedure when pursuing a lemon law claim?

    When dealing with a motor vehicle that does not comply with the terms of its warranty, the consumer may be entitled to certain remedies under the lemon law. These remedies allow the consumer to be made whole, or close to whole, after expending a significant amount of money purchasing a car or truck that later proves to be defective. Some manufacturers may offer an informal dispute settlement procedure to deal with lemon law claims. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney before pursuing this option.

    Three Important Guidelines for an Informal Dispute Settlement Procedure

    If you are considering making use of an informal dispute settlement procedure such as arbitration, as a result of a lemon law issue, keep the following helpful information in mind:

    1. The consumer does not have to utilize an informal dispute settlement procedure under the Virginia Lemon Law, but it may be required by federal law.   If the manufacturer of the vehicle provides such a procedure, it is the consumer’s choice as to whether or not to utilize it prior to taking advantage of the rights provided under the lemon law.
    2. If the consumer opts to use the informal dispute settlement procedure and the decision is to give the consumer a refund or a comparable vehicle, the manufacturer has only 40 days from the consumer’s acceptance of such decision to comply. Alternatively, the manufacturer must conform when there is a court order to comply with the terms of the decision.
    3. If the consumer pursues legal action because the manufacturer fails to comply with the decision reached in the informal dispute settlement procedure, the consumer may be entitled to triple the value of the award that was given pursuant to the decision in the procedure. The consumer may also be entitled to other equitable relief that the court determines is appropriate. This may include additional attorneys fees.
    4. We generally advise that you use this informal dispute procedure since it is non binding on you if you do not like the decision, but it is binding on the manufacturer.  

    Determining how best to proceed when dealing with a faulty vehicle requires the guidance of a knowledgeable legal professional. We encourage you to contact us today for more information at 804-282-7900.

  • When buying a used car, how can I tell if it was returned under the Lemon Law?

    Purchasing a used vehicle is often a good economical decision. Unfortunately, doing so comes with certain risks. One risk that many consumers may be unaware of is the chance that the used vehicle they are considering may have formerly been a lemon that was returned to the dealer under Virginia’s Lemon Law.

    Protect Yourself From Purchasing a Lemon Law Buyback

    What can you do to protect yourself as a consumer? Consider the following four tips:

    1. Use the car’s Vehicle Identification Number to confirm its repair history. This can be done via a request for a repair history to the dealer selling you the car. Some, but not all repairs can be discovered through a Car Fax, so get a Car Fax and an Autocheck vehicle repair history report. If you see that the car has undergone frequent repairs, this may indicate that it was a lemon. At that point, you can call the vehicle’s manufacturer and use the VIN to obtain the vehicle’s defect history.
    2. If you are buying or leasing the car from a dealer, ask for a copy of the vehicle’s defect history from the dealer. It is important to do this before finalizing the transaction.
    3. Remember that the Lemon Law imposes disclosure obligations on the manufacturers and dealers who are involved in the resale or lease of returned vehicles.
    4. Always ask the sales manager what damages and defects the vehicle has. Ideally, you should have a witness with you who will be able to confirm that he told you there are no damages or vehicular problems, since later, if problems do arise, he may deny saying that the vehicle had no problems.

    If you already purchased a used vehicle and have since discovered that it was a lemon buyback, you may have a claim if the dealer did not disclose the vehicle’s defect history. First, it is important to contact an experienced attorney who can explain your rights and help you pursue compensation. Next, consider contacting the Motor Vehicle Dealer Board at 804-367-1100. The MVDB may suggest that you file a claim with the Virginia Motor Vehicle Transaction Recovery Fund. This Fund is designed to reimburse consumers who have suffered losses or damages in connection with the purchase of a motor vehicle due the actions of licensed or registered car dealers or salespersons, often having obtained a judgement versus the dealer for fraud.

    If you purchased a vehicle that turned out to be a lemon, we encourage you to act quickly, because strict time limitations apply. Contact us today at 804-282-7900 for more information.

  • I purchased a car and the dealer concealed certain optional add-ons while we were negotiating. Does that constitute fraud?

    For most consumers, the car buying process can be overwhelming and exhausting. When you finally agree to a vehicle and a purchase price after negotiating with a dealership, your guard may be down. At that point, you likely think that the difficult part of the car buying process is over. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Some salespeople commit auto fraud in the way they handle add-on costs during the car buying process.

    How Add-On Concealment Auto Fraud Typically Works

    Add-on concealment occurs when a salesperson or dealership charges a consumer for optional add-ons without being up front about their inclusion or their associated costs. Examples of common add-on features include extended warranties and prepaid service or maintenance programs. Typically, the process works as follows:

    1. You decide to purchase a new or used vehicle from a dealer.
    2. After picking out a vehicle, you negotiate the monthly payment you will have to make with the salesperson.
    3. After you agree upon the monthly payment, the salesperson conceals the fact that he included certain optional add-ons, like gap insurance into the final vehicle price, telling you that these came with the montly payment you agreed to when, in fact, these were optional items, without which your monthly payment would be much lower.
    4. Even if the salesperson did not conceal the inclusion of these add-ons, the salesperson may have concealed the true cost of the add-ons.

    Why do some salespeople and dealerships commit auto fraud by concealing the price or inclusion of optional add-ons? These add-ons are very profitable for the dealership and the profit margin on the add ons is mich higher than on the vehicle itself. If you were a victim of add-on concealment auto fraud, it is important to seek legal assistance. We strongly encourage you to contact us today at 804-282-7900.

     

  • How much will I receive if I request a refund under the Lemon Law?

    While the purchase of a new car is usually an exciting and satisfying experience, some consumers, unfortunately, purchase a motor vehicle that later proves to be defective, does not conform to a warranty, or is in such a condition that it affects its use, safety, or market value. When this occurs, consumers are afforded certain protections under the state’s Lemon Law. As part of the provisions of this law, a consumer may opt to return the vehicle and accept a refund.

    Calculating a Refund Amount Under the Lemon Law

    When a consumer obtains a refund for a vehicle under the Lemon Law, the refund amount is based upon the situation’s unique facts and circumstances. What parties are potentially entitled to a refund after the return of a motor vehicle?  The following is an overview of Virginia's Lemon Law:

    • The consumer
    • The lessor of the vehicle
    • The lienholder, to the extent of their interest

    As part of the refund amount, the party pursuing the lemon law claim may receive compensation for the full contract price for the sale of the vehicle, collateral charges (which includes interest paid out on the loan and accessories), and incidental damages. This amount is reduced by a reasonable allowance for the use of the vehicle up until the date when the first notice of nonconformity was given to the manufacturer or dealer. In addition, the consumer may be entitled to mileage, expenses, reasonable loss of use of the vehicle, and legal fees and expert fees are recoverable as well, all of which occurred as a result of the manufacturer or dealer’s attempts to make the motor vehicle conform to the express warranty.

    If you purchased a lemon, it is important to seek guidance in order to protect your legal rights. We encourage you to act quickly by contacting us today at 804-282-7900.

  • What are some examples of auto fraud under Virginia law?

    For many consumers, the purchase of a motor vehicle can be an overwhelming process. Vehicles are an expensive investment; as a result, consumers often have to rely on the trustworthiness of the dealer when investigating the vehicle and ultimately making the purchase. Unfortunately, auto fraud can and does take place. It is important for consumers to understand when fraud has taken place in order to protect their legal rights. Virginia law is clear in how it defines auto fraud, and this article explores some of the more common examples to be aware of if you’re shopping for a car.

    Common Examples of Auto Fraud

    What are some of the common ways that dealers commit auto fraud? The following are six examples:

    1. The dealer attempts to conceal repairs that were made to a vehicle that had previously been totaled.
    2. The dealer executes a “bait and switch.” This means that the dealer lures the buyer to the dealership by advertising a price for a specific vehicle. When the buyer arrives at the dealership, however, the dealer either sells the consumer a different vehicle or sells the same vehicle to the buyer, but at a higher price.
    3. The dealer misrepresents or attempts to conceal flood damage to the vehicle if asked.
    4. The dealer attempts to conceal or misrepresents prior accidents that occurred involving the vehicle if asked.
    5. The dealer misrepresents to the consumer that the consumer’s financing is approved. Later, after all of the papers have been signed, the dealer tells the consumer that the financing did not go through, and therefore the consumer will have to sign a more expensive contract. This is known as a “yo-yo” sale. The buyer does not have to sign the new contract. If he takes the car back within 24 hours of being contacted by the dealer, the dealer has to give him back his down payment and/or trade-in.
    6. A key factor in the success of these prior wreck cases is proving the dealer knew the vehicle was previously wrecked.

    While Virginia has several laws in place designed to protect consumers, there are time limitations imposed on the ability to pursue a claim. For this reason, if you suspect that you are a victim of auto fraud, we encourage you to act quickly by contacting us today at 804-282-7900.

  • What documents are important to support your auto fraud case?

    After purchasing a used vehicle from a car dealer and later discovering that the dealer concealed the true condition of the vehicle, you are likely feeling frustrated and angry. Consumers enter into these transactions with the assumption that the dealer will be forthcoming and honest about the product they are selling. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. As a result, you may need to pursue a claim against the dealer for auto fraud. As part of this process, it is important to collect certain documentation from the dealer.

    5 Important Documents to Request In Order to Support Your Auto Fraud Claim

    What documentation will you need to request as part of the discovery process in an auto fraud case? The following are five examples:

    1. Documents relating to the previous owners of the vehicle which includes a DMV title history.
    2. The sales documents relating to the dealer’s purchase of the vehicle as well as the subsequent sale to you as the vehicle’s purchaser.
    3. Copies of all repair documents relating to the vehicle.
    4. Copies of all policy and procedure manuals implemented by the dealership.
    5. Any CarFax or AutoCheck report the dealer has ordered on your car prior to your purchase.

    Knowing what to do when a dealer lies to you during your auto purchase experience is crucial to enforcing your legal rights. Fortunately, we are here to provide guidance. We encourage you to contact us today at 804-282-7900 for more information.

  • Can a dealer roll the negative equity in my trade-in into the price of my new vehicle?

    For many consumers, the purchase of a new vehicle also involves the trading in of an older vehicle. As part of the transaction, the consumer sells his old car to the dealership. The consumer may still have an outstanding loan balance on this older vehicle. In some cases, the loan balance is higher than what the older vehicle is worth. Consumers must use caution in these situations as auto fraud may occur.

    How Dealers May Attempt to Hide Negative Equity

    When a consumer trades in an older vehicle and purchases a new one, the dealer will first assign a value to the older car. If the value of the car is less than what is still owed on the loan used to purchase that vehicle, this is known as negative equity. In order to move forward with the sale on the new car, the dealer cannot increase the cash price of the new vehicle to cover the negative equity. Attempting to hide negative equity is a form of auto fraud. The dealer may show on the contract of purchase that the amount of payoff is the same as the trade-in value, but then increases the purchase price to cover the negative equity.  The salesperson may even claim that they will pay off your trade-in as the trade-in value and lead you to believe that the payoff amount is what was given as the trade-in value, but then conceal the negative equity by increasing the purchase price.

    Consumers may be harmed in this type of situation because the consumer may have to pay higher taxes on the inflated sales price. Consumers should never be paying sales tax on a direct loan from the car dealer. In addition to the auto dealer, the parties who ultimately purchase or invest in the credit contract after the sale is finalized can also be held liable for fraud when negative equity is hidden.

    Consumers must protect themselves whenever auto fraud is suspected. Fortunately, we are here to provide guidance. We encourage you to act quickly by contacting us today at (804) 282-7900.

     

  • How do I know if my vehicle has a "nonconformity" under the Virginia lemon law?

    Purchasing a motor vehicle is a significant investment. Unfortunately, some cars and trucks do not live up to a consumer’s expectations at the time of purchase. When the vehicle’s faults make it a “lemon” under Virginia’s laws, consumers are entitled to certain legal protections guaranteed by the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act. Under the act, consumers are protected when their vehicle exhibits nonconformities, but what actually qualifies as a “nonconformity”?.

    Determining Nonconformity Under Virginia’s Lemon Law

    A vehicle is considered to have a nonconformity under the terms of Virginia’s lemon law when the vehicle does not conform to the warranty or has a defect or condition that significantly impairs its use, market value, or overall safety.

    A nonconformity may exist even if the failure to conform to the warranty or the defect or condition does not affect the drivability of the vehicle. It is also important to understand the definition of “significant impairment” under the terms of the Act. In Virginia, a “significant impairment” exists when the motor vehicle is unfit, unreliable, or unsafe for ordinary use or its reasonable intended purposes.

    Pursuing a Lemon Law Case to Replace a Nonconforming Vehicle

    When nonconformity exists, consumers may be entitled to a replacement of their vehicle, a refund of the purchase price, and other possible legal remedies. However, if the manufacturer can show that the nonconformity was due to abuse, neglect, or unauthorized modification of the vehicle by the consumer, the law will not apply. If you believe your vehicle is a lemon, you may have a fight on your hands. Time limitations also apply, so we encourage you to act quickly by contacting us today at 804-282-7900.

  • How do I know if the issue with my vehicle is covered under a limited written warranty?

    Federal law requires that every warranty be labeled as either full or limited. The minimum standards to be labeled "full"  are:

    • It cannot restrict the warranty rights of a subsequent owner during its stated duration;
    • It must promise to remedy defects within a reasonable time without charge;
    • It cannot limit the duration of any implied warranty;
    • It cannot limit consequential damages unless such exclusion or limitation conspicuously appears on the face of the warranty;
    • It must permit the consumer, after a reasonable number of attempts by the warrantor to remedy the defect, to elect a refund or replacement of the defective product or part; and
    • In most cases, it must require no duty of the consumer other than notification of the defect.

    Very few warranties these days are "full,"  thus these requirements have not had much impact. 

    Limited warranties, on the other hand, which are what most warranties are these days, can be restricted in any number of ways, including who may enforce the warranty, the duration of the warranty, what parts of the vehicle are covered, as well as requiring the buyer to take certain steps as a precondition's duties. 

    To decide if your vehicle or the problem you are experiencing is covered, you will need to review your warranty to detemine if it has expired, or, if the defective part is covered by the warranty, what duties you must perform to obtain covereage, and if the warrranty has any exclusions or disclaimers that would give the warrantor the right to deny the claim. For example, many warranties do not cover "pre-existing problems."  This means that if the defect existed at the time of purchase, the warranty is not going to cover it.  Therefore purchasing a limited warranty with such an exclusion is of no benefit for mechanical or prior accident damage problems that exist at the time of purchase that could be claimed to be the result of those pre-existing problems.  

    If your defect is excluded, all hope is not lost. State laws generally imply certain warranties, such as the warranty of merchantability, and if you are given a written warranty, the warranty of merchantability applies for the duration of the written warranty. 

    It is for this reason that we strongly encourage a detailed inspection by a qualified mechanic and body shop prior to purchase to detemine if the vehicle has prior accident damage or existing mechanical problems that will provide an excuse for the warrantor to disclaim responsibility for a claim you may have. 

    If the seller of your vehicle failed to provide you with this information or is failing to live up to its terms, you may have a claim for breach of warranty, and sometimes attorney fees are recoverable. We encourage you to contact us for more information about protecting your legal rights. Call us today at 804-282-7900.

  • Why should I ask debt collectors to verify my debt?

    When debt collectors are coming after you, they may use aggressive, frustrating, and annoying tactics to try and collect what you owe. Fortunately, consumers are provided with some protection from creditors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under the terms of the act, consumers have a powerful weapon at their disposal. Consumers have the right to require that a debt collector verify the amount and validity of the debt they are accused of owing. To take advantage of this important tool, however, you must act quickly. Failing to request debt validation could be costly.

    Reasons to Request Debt Verification From a Debt Collector

    If you do not request debt verification in order to determine who the original creditor is, you may have a more difficult time determining whether or not you have grounds to dispute the debt. Requesting that a debt be validated can reveal the fact that the debt collection agency is missing vital information about the debt. For example, the agency may be trying to collect the wrong amount of debt, or may be trying to collect from you when the debt is really that of someone with a similar name. If you do not request that the debt be validated, you could miss an opportunity to reduce or eliminate the debt and the debt collection agency can assume the debt is valid. Similarly, if you do not request the original creditor’s name and address within 30 days of receiving the first collection letter, the debt collection agency can assume the debt is valid and can then continue its collection effort, taking advantage of all legal collection efforts against you.

    Reasons to Demand Debt Collectors to Stop Calling

    If you know the debt is not yours or it was paid off, you can send the debt collector a simple letter that demands the debt collector stop contacting you in any way since the debt is not owed. Send the letter by certified mail with return receipt requested or by overnight mail. If the debt collector contacts you to collect after the receipt of the letter, contact us.

    When it comes to debt collection, time is of the essence. We encourage you to act quickly by contacting us today at (804) 282-7900.

  • What is the most effective way to dispute an error on my credit report?

    When an error shows up on your credit report, it can wreak havoc with your personal and financial life. In today’s world, credit reports and scores are used for many aspects of our lives, from getting a job, to renting an apartment, to obtaining financing to purchase a vehicle. Errors on a report should be disputed as quickly and thoroughly as possible in order to minimize their damage. Fortunately, consumers are entitled to certain protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). However, it is important to understand how best to file a dispute.

    Tips for Filing a Written Dispute Over Errors on Your Credit Report

    In order to maximize your chances of having an error on your credit report corrected, it is important to following the below tips when it comes to submitting your dispute to the credit bureau:

    1. Do not utilize the credit bureau’s online dispute form. These forms typically only allow you a small amount of space in which to describe your complaint.
    2. Always submit a dispute in writing by certified mail and keep dated copies of everything you send.
    3. Send a copy of the dispute to the party that furnished the inaccurate information at the same time as it is submitted to the credit bureau.
    4. Always include as much information as possible in your letters. Attach supporting evidence if you have it.
    5. Address only one dispute per letter. Often, consumers uncover multiple errors on their credit report. Each error should be addressed in its own detailed letter.

    As a consumer, you are also entitled to consult with an attorney in order to protect your rights under FCRA. If you spot an error on your credit report, we can help. We have helped many clients restore their credit. Check out our client testimonials page to learn more.