What is dealer fraud?

The term “dealer fraud” covers the wide range of deceptive, unfair, and fraudulent practices that can be used by car dealers during the auto sales process. Dealer fraud can occur at any stage, including deceptive advertising, negotiating for the sale, and yo-yo financing days (or even weeks) after the sale is complete. Conn Law, PC has significant experience in recognizing and fighting against these tactics.

What is the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights?

The Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights went into effect on July 1, 2006 and provides new protections for California consumers buying vehicles at retail. For example, it limits what kinds of cars can be sold as “Certified” used vehicles, gives used car buyers the option of purchasing a contract cancellation option, and provides buyers their credit scores when they purchase a vehicle.

I bought a used car, do I have any rights?

Yes! Too often we hear the same story, “but the dealer told me, ‘too bad,’ you shouldn’t have bought a used car.” Even in selling used cars, dealerships must meet certain standards. For example, all vehicles sold at retail in California must pass a “safety inspection” and certain material issues must be disclosed. Even if you bought a used car, you might still have a case.

What does Certified Pre-Owned mean?

You have probably seen countless advertisements for “Certified Pre-Owned” vehicles. While almost every manufacturer has their own “CPO” program, the standards can vary significantly. However, in California, only certain categories of cars can be sold as “Certified Pre-Owned.” For example, a car cannot be sold as a CPO if it has frame damage or has an altered odometer. Click here for more information about certified pre-owned cars.

Does the dealership have to tell me if my car was in an accident before I bought it?

It depends on how severe the accident was and whether the vehicle is sold as new, used, or “certified pre-owned.” If you bought a new car, the dealership almost always has to disclose if the car had been in an accident. And if you bought a used car, depending on the severity of the damage, the dealership may have to disclose the pre-sale damage.

Why is the dealership asking me to sign a new contract?

Most vehicles in California are “indirectly financed.” This means, the dealership does not want to act as the bank and instead sells or “assigns” the financing of the vehicle. This sometimes does not happen instantaneously (even if you are “pre-approved”). Most retail installment sales contracts give the dealership up to 10 days to find financing. If, after a good faith effort, they are unable to find financing, they can cancel the contract and ask you to return the car. They must request the cancellation within 10 days of sale. If the dealership cannot find financing within 10 days, you are under no obligation to sign a new contract with different terms; you can simply return the car and get your money back. And if they do not request the cancellation within 10 days, they cannot even demand that you return the car.

Can a dealership sell me a car for above the advertised price?

No! California law is very clear, a dealership cannot sell a vehicle for above the advertised price. It doesn't even matter if you were unaware of the advertisement when you bought the vehicle. Selling a vehicle for above the advertised price is illegal.

Should I sign a blank contract?

Absolutely not! Vehicle contracts must be fully filled out at the time that they are signed. In fact, the Rees-Levering Act explicitly states “[t]he seller shall not obtain the signature of the buyer to a contract when it contains blank spaces to be filled in after it has been signed.” If you are provided with a blank contract that is later filled out, it is unenforceable and you may be entitled to cancel the contract and get all of your money back.