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What unlawful activities constitute auto dealer fraud?

On Behalf of | Dec 6, 2019 | Consumer Protection

If you think back to how car salespeople are depicted on television, they’re often described as dirty, sleazy and other negative terms. Thankfully, these words don’t describe all individuals who sell cars for a living. There are some unprofessional, unethical and illegal behaviors that some car salespeople have historically engaged in that have painted them in a bad light though.

Here in West Virginia and virtually every other state in the country, there are laws on the books that, if violated, may result in an individual being charged with auto dealer fraud.

You should know that someone can be charged with this crime for engaging in deceptive or otherwise unlawful practices at varying stages of the car-buying process. This includes when extending financing to a prospective borrower, in advertising a vehicle and when haggling over the car’s final price.

Auto dealers here in Charleston and most other jurisdictions are required to disclose if a used vehicle has been damaged in a flood, previously been involved in a crash and whether it has been assigned a salvage title. They’re also supposed to make sure that the odometer reading is reflective of the car’s actual mileage and that it hasn’t been rolled back.

It’s illegal for auto dealers to engage in “bait and switch” sales tactics. One primary example of how some car salespeople do this is by advertising a car at one price to get customers in the door, but then telling them that it’s no longer available once they arrive. If a salesperson tries to upsell a prospective buyer on a more expensive vehicle or says the cost of the advertised one is higher than what was originally reported, then they may be deemed to have engaged in bating and switching the buyer.

Most states’ laws are written where a consumer must first call it to a dealer’s attention that they’re aware that they engaged in some type of impropriety so that they can take steps to remedy their actions. If a dealer fails to do anything, then a prospective buyer may pursue legal remedies against them.

An attorney can advise you of the next steps that you may want to take in an auto fraud case if your salesperson has been unwilling to make amends for their illegal actions.

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