Bryan Cohen Jan. 15, 2014, 3:03pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a lawsuit on Monday against two Charlotte-based used car dealerships and their owner for allegedly treating car buyers unfairly based on race.

Auto Fare Inc., Southeastern Auto Corp. and Zuhdi Saadeh, the companies' owner, allegedly charged African American customers prices far above market rate for vehicles and signed them up for unfair loans. Cooper's Consumer Protection Division joined the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in filing the suit.

"Charging people inflated prices based on their race isn't the way to do business in our state," Cooper said. "These allegations show outrageous behavior that should be stopped."

The lawsuit requests that the court declare the defendants' actions illegal under the state's Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, order the practices stopped and require consumer refunds and penalties. Cooper alleged Saadeh routinely sold cars to African American customers at prices much higher than the industry standards. Saadeh allegedly required unusually high down payments and charged a 29 percent interest rate on his car loans, the highest allowed under state law.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Justice alleged the defendants violated the federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act.

"All consumers deserve to be treated fairly when they spend their money," Cooper said.

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