In short, the answer is yes. IF the dealer knows about a problem and it is considered “significant” or “material”.

The Virginia Consumer Protection Act not only covers affirmative misrepresentations, but also affords you protections if the product is blemished, defective used, repossessed, deteriorated, or “not first class”, the supplier or dealer must clearly and unequivocally indicate in the offer for sale that those goods are blemished, defective used, repossessed, deteriorated, or “not first class”. Such a failure to disclose gives rise to a concealment claim, as well as a claim for fraud, or deception. A concealment claim, whether for fraud or under the VCPA, however, has been interpreted as requiring the consumer to prove that the concealment was deliberate.

Moreover, a dealer’s willful nondisclosure of a material fact that it knows is unknown to the other party may evince an intent to practice actual fraud.

How To Prove a Dealer Is Not Disclosing Issues With a Vehicle

This may sound easier than it is to prove because the dealer, when confronted by you about a problem you discover after the sale will usually deny that it knew about it, or will claim this problem occurred AFTER you bought it. They will also claim you never even asked about any problems or prior damage, which you should always do.

Be alert to a dealer that will use a “clean” Carfax as proof the vehicle has no problems. If it does this, and knows the car has problems, then that is fraud. Furthermore, all dealers know that Carfax’s database is full of holes and a clean report does NOT mean the car has never been in an accident or damaged. It just mean that the sources Carfax uses are not reporting it yet.

So always, if possible, have someone with you when negotiating to buy a vehicle, to confirm that you asked whether the vehicle has ever been damaged or in an accident or has any the event the dealer says you never asked. And even if you did not ask, the dealer does have a duty to disclose this material or significant information if it knows about this problem.

John Cole Gayle, Jr.
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Consumer Law Pioneer and Co-Author of Virginia's Lemon Law