N.J. car dealerships settle Consumer Fraud Act violations
Anne Milgram (D)
NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - A group of New Jersey car dealerships has agreed to pay $750,000 to settle claims that it made false claims over trade-ins and credit qualifications.
"Dealers who do not deal honestly with the public will be held accountable," Attorney General Anne Milgram said. "We had been in court on this matter several times, and were ready to move forward to trial, if this settlement had not been reached."
Foulke Management Corporation, doing business as Cherry Hill Triplex, operates Cherry Hill Dodge, Cherry Hill Jeep Eagle, Cherry Hill Kia, Cherry Hill Mitsubishi and Mt. Ephraim Chrysler/Dodge.
Foulke has agreed to pay $450,000 to the state for consumer restitution and reimbursement of state's attorneys' fees and investigative costs.
An additional $300,000 is provided for in the settlement for civil penalties, which are suspended as long as Foulke adheres to the settlement terms over the next year.
The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed by the state March 13, 2006, that alleged violations of the Used Lemon Law, Used Car Lemon Law Regulations, Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations and the Consumer Fraud Act as well as a prior Assurance of Voluntary Compliance with the state.
Foulke is alleged to have advertised that it performed no credit checks and that consumers would instantly qualify, regardless of their credit. Foulke also advertised "$8,000 GUARANTEED FOR YOUR TRADE." The credit and trade-in allowance were then not provided.
Foulke is also alleged to have failed to properly display prices on new and used motor vehicles.
"This settlement addresses the consumers who have previously filed complaints while also protecting consumers who do business with Foulke in the future," said state Consumer Affairs Director David Szuchman. "We are prepared to act again on behalf of consumers if any violations are committed by these dealerships in the future."
As part of the settlement, Foulke agreed to extensive injunctive relief and business practices, the company will no longer represent an unconditional or guaranteed promotion and then fail to honor its terms.
Foulke will not guarantee automatic approval or other guaranteed financing and then fail to arrange it or represent that previously sold or leased vehicles are still for sale or lease. Vehicles Foulke offers for sale will be required to feature a plainly marked sale price and will disclose prior use or damage to vehicles.
Foulke also agreed to not represent certain products that aren't mandatory as such or misrepresent the final down payment or monthly payment in a vehicle's sales document. All sales documents will also be reviewable by consumers before signing and consumers will be provided copies of all signed documents.
All advertisements from Foulke will be required to clearly and conspicuously state all disclaimers, qualifiers or limitations that limit, condition or negate a purported unconditional offer while maintaining a copy of all applicable advertisements and a copy of the executed sales documents for at least 180 days after a transaction.
Foulke has also agreed to participate in the Division's Alternative Dispute Resolution process for at least the next year. Consumer complains arising from the resolution will be forwarded to Foulke to be resolved. Complaints not resolved can be submitted for binding arbitration before the ADR unit.