It’s been a busy May for Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro as his office made two moves involving independent dealerships in the Keystone State.
Earlier this month, Shapiro reached a settlement approaching $51,000 with a dealership in Mechanicsburg, Pa., involving seven allegations.
Then last week, the AG’s office filed a lawsuit against an operator with stores in Moosic, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre for allegedly violating eight parts of the state’s consumer protection law.
According to a news release, Shapiro finalized a $50,892.29 settlement that allows restitution for customers of New Kingstown Auto, owner Harry Laughman and employee Dana (Blosser) San.
The settlement, in the form of a petition requiring court approval, comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer protection alleging that the defendants:
— Advertised used vehicles for sale without disclosing the business name and address of the advertiser or the word “dealer.”
— Sold a used motorcycle as having 69,000 miles, when in fact the motorcycle had 153,000 miles.
— Sold vehicles without a valid dealer or salesperson license.
— Failed to forward to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation money and forms submitted by a consumer who purchased a vehicle with temporary registration tags in timely manner.
— Engaged in lease transactions with consumers that did not include required lease disclosures and were not compliant with applicable laws.
— Accepted installment payments from consumers on vehicles without holding the required installment seller license.
— Provided a consumer an installment sale contract that did not comply with requirements.
“Unscrupulous business dealers can’t dodge our Bureau of Consumer Protection,” Shapiro said Attorney General Josh. “I’m grateful for their hard work to put a stop to the defendants’ shady practices and deliver results for the people of Pennsylvania.”
According to that news release, one consumer, Richard Ridley of Carlisle, Pa., purchased a vehicle from New Kingstown Auto in 2017. The attorney general said assurances from the dealership indicated that the store would fix outstanding issues with the vehicle such as a check engine light and cracked windshield. However, Ridley said the dealership did not complete the repairs.
The attorney general also said Ridley paid his installment contract early but was then told by the defendants that he voided his contract and was forced to enter into a new purchase agreement that was unlawfully executed. Ridley is now in line to receive more than $800 in restitution for the repairs he had to pay for himself.
“I was manipulated by New Kingstown Auto every step of the way and provided false information about my car, my lease agreement, and the services the dealership would provide,” Ridley said in the release. “As a result, I paid hundreds of dollars out of pocket on repairs. The experience was incredibly stressful, but I’m grateful to the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection for their hard work to hold this dealership accountable and obtain restitution for consumers like me.”
BHPH Report obtained a copy of the lawsuit Shapiro’s office has taken against RCMS Auto Sales and owner Thomas Hashem.
According to the 73-page lawsuit that can be viewed here, the dealership allegedly has broken Pennsylvania consumer protection law, including:
— Misrepresenting the condition and roadworthiness of vehicles sold.
— Failing to disclose to purchasers that some vehicles were not roadworthy as the vehicles were unable to pass state inspection.
— Misrepresenting in advertisements, including website and dealer lot signage, that defendants have a credit restoration program to help customers restore their credit when in fact defendants do not have a credit restoration program.
— Misrepresenting that defendants have performed a “61-point” pre-purchase inspection on all vehicles and all vehicles are serviced by a licensed service technician when, in fact, the Commonwealth believes that the defendants do not perform a 61-point pre-purchase inspection nor are vehicles serviced by a licensed service technician.
— Misrepresenting to consumers that vehicles purchased were in a condition acceptable to qualify for a third-party warranty that defendants advertised and sold to consumers.
— Misrepresenting that a warranty was placed on “every vehicle” and that defendants service their warranties when in fact, in at least some instances, the vehicles sold were not warrantable due to pre-existing mechanical issues that defendants knew or should have known existed
— Failing to service warranties or otherwise remedy consumer vehicles within a reasonable amount of time without charge.
— Failing to include in at least six sales of vehicles whether the vehicles were new or used and a description of the prior usage of the defendants’ bill of sale.
The state AG is looking for RCMS Auto Sales to pay civil penalties $1,000 for each past and present violation of law. And since some allegations involve consumers age 60 and older, the Shapiro’s office is seeking $3,000 per violation for matters involving that demographic.
And along with surrendering dealer licenses, Shapiro’s lawsuit seeks costs for law enforcement’s investigation and prosecution.