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Auto Dealer Fraud - Enforcing Your Rights

The excitement of purchasing a new car or used car can quickly turn to frustration if you fall victim to auto fraud. Both state and federal laws protect consumers from auto scams and there are ways to enforce your rights under the law.

This article will help you understand your options for enforcing your consumer rights if you've been scammed by an auto dealer, including:

  • Contacting the dealership
  • How to file consumer complaints
  • When to get help from an attorney

Read on to learn how to defend yourself against auto dealer fraud.

Contact the Car Dealer

In many states, if you believe the auto dealer committed fraud or engaged in deceptive practices, you must contact the dealership and allow them to correct the problem. You must take this step before you can pursue legal action, such as filing a lawsuit.

You can initiate this contact yourself, or with help from an attorney. Either way, the contract should be in writing and clearly illustrate the problem. Some examples of fraudulent selling practices include:

  • Failure to disclose certain financing charges
  • Misrepresenting warranty coverage or the sales contract
  • Inflating the invoice price of the vehicle
  • Concealing the cost of add-ons, like a service contract or extended warranty
  • Changing the odometer reading

Your written request also must detail what steps you would like the dealer to take to resolve the problem, like a partial refund of the vehicle purchase price.

A lemon is a vehicle under a manufacturer's warranty with a substantial defect that remains unresolved after a reasonable number of attempts to repair it. Consumers who suspect they've purchased a lemon must first contact the dealership to report the defect and allow them to attempt to repair it.

State lemon laws determine what type of defect qualifies as substantial and how many repair attempts are reasonable. Some states require arbitration for lemon issues before a car buyer can pursue a lawsuit. Arbitration is a method of dispute resolution that is less formal and less expensive than a civil claim.

File Complaints With State Agencies

You can also file a complaint with your state's consumer affairs agency. For most states, this is a consumer protection division of the attorney general's office. Some states have agencies that specifically handle complaints regarding auto dealers.

For example, Wisconsin consumers can file a complaint about an auto dealer with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Dealer Section. Nebraskans can submit a complaint form to the Nebraska Motor Vehicle Industry Licensing Board.

Report Fraud and File Complaints With Federal Agencies

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer laws that prevent deceptive business practices. You can report fraud, scams, and unfair business directly to the FTC.

You can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB processes complaints within two business days and contacts the business on your behalf. The BBB then notifies the consumer if and when the business responds. The BBB closes most complaints within 30 days.

The BBB has a specific division for consumers to file disputes for automotive issues. Use the BBB Auto Line to file a claim regarding a misleading vehicle warranty or lemon vehicle.

Get Legal Help From a Consumer Attorney

If you recently bought a new or used vehicle and suspect the dealer of fraud or misrepresentation, you may want to speak with an attorney.

An attorney experienced in consumer protection laws can review the aspects of your situation and explain your legal options. If you decide to file a lawsuit against the dealer, your attorney will help ensure the best possible outcome for your claim. This can include securing a legal remedy or compensation.

It can be beneficial to work with an attorney if you've exhausted the other options above to remedy your situation. Remember that in some states, you must contact the dealer and allow them to correct the problem before taking legal action.

An attorney can also help appeal an arbitration decision if you are dealing with a defective vehicle or a lemon.

Use FindLaw's Attorney Directory to find a consumer protection attorney in your area.

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You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified consumer attorney to assist in your lemon law or dealer fraud matter.

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