Car dealer did not disclose repair work on new demo vehicle

September 15, 2016 17:43 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I purchased a new vehicle (demo with about 1600 miles on it) in May of last year and have had trouble with the car idling correctly and with the transmission.  After pulling a Carfax report on the vehicle, I saw that at about 400 miles prior to my purchasing it, the dealership did service work on the vehicle for the same issue that I am having now – rough idle.  Is there any policy or law stating that repairs must be disclosed to the customer?  I didn't pull a Carfax before purchasing the car, but what customer would think of that when they are supposedly buying new?   

Consumer Ed says:  

In Georgia, car dealers must disclose any damage to a new vehicle which the dealer knew about and which cost more than 5% of the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) to repair.   Because your “demo” vehicle, which may have been used  for test drives or commuting by dealership employees, is considered a new vehicle, the dealer was obligated to disclose repair work if the repair costs met this threshold.   If the service done to the car costs less than 5% of the MSRP, however, the dealership was not required to disclose the repairs you identified in the Carfax report. 

Even if no disclosure was required, your vehicle’s mechanical problems may be covered by the Georgia Lemon Law.  The Lemon Law protects new vehicles purchased, leased or registered in Georgia from certain defects or conditions that occur within the Lemon Law rights period, defined as the first 24 months or 24,000 miles of delivery of your vehicle, whichever comes first. In your case, for example, the 1600 miles that were on the car when you took ownership would not count towards the 24,000 miles. Your Lemon Law rights period would expire two years from the date of delivery (around May of 2017), or at 25,600 miles, whichever occurs first.

The Lemon Law doesn’t cover every issue, but it does cover serious safety defects, and defects or conditions that prevent the vehicle from conforming to the manufacturer’s warranty or that substantially impair the vehicle’s use, value, or safety. 

A vehicle may be eligible for protection under the Lemon Law if it manifests a qualifying defect or condition and the dealer or manufacturer’s representative cannot repair it after a reasonable number of attempts, unless a serious safety defect is involved.  Or, if a vehicle has been out of service for repairs for 30 days or more, it is considered to have met the reasonable number of attempts requirement. Note that both the defect and the repair attempts must occur within the Lemon Law rights period.

If the defect still has not been fixed after a reasonable number of repair attempts, the consumer must give the manufacturer a final opportunity to correct it. If that final repair attempt fails to resolve the problem, the consumer has the right to request that the manufacturer either repurchase or replace the vehicle.  

For more information about how to proceed, call the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at 404-651-9397. 


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Dealer will not provide vehicle title for used car I bought

July 29, 2016 15:03 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I bought a used car 3 and a half months ago from a major car dealership, and I still don’t have a tag. I got an extension from the tag office in May, but when I went back to the office in June when the tag expired, they told me the dealership still didn’t have the title work finished. The tag office couldn’t issue me another extension, nor can the dealership give me one. So the dealership typed me a letter stating that the title got lost in the mail just in case I get stopped. That was six weeks ago and I still don’t have a tag. The dealership keeps giving me the run-around. What should I do? 

Consumer Ed says:

First of all, a typed letter from the dealership is not an acceptable, legal substitute for a tag in Georgia. Once a tag expires, your car is legally considered unregistered and this can lead to financial and driving-record consequences if you are pulled over by law enforcement while driving the vehicle. So, even if the title truly was lost in the mail, the letter from the dealership does not legally permit you to drive your car in Georgia.

When you purchase a vehicle from a car dealer in Georgia, the dealer is required by law to handle the title transfer process and submit the application for a new title in your name. If you financed the car, the title goes to the lien holder (the bank or financing company), who retains it until you pay off the loan.

The dealer has 30 calendar days from the date of the sale to apply for a title and to furnish you with the proper documents to obtain a tag for the vehicle. In the meantime, the dealership must supply you with a dealer-issued temporary tag to allow you time to apply for your own tag. 

The dealer cannot issue an extension or another tag, nor can you operate the vehicle legally with an expired dealer-issued temporary tag. So, if the dealer fails to obtain a title for transfer to you within five days of the expiration date of the dealer-issued tag (25 days from the purchase date), you may apply for one 30-day temporary tag at your county Tax Commissioner's Tag Office. 

Since your temporary tag extension has expired and you still don’t have a title – and since you have not been able to get things resolved by contacting the dealer directly – you may want to consult an attorney about your legal rights to pursue the possession of your title in court.  Also, if you financed the purchase of your car with a bank or financing company, you may want to notify them of your situation. 

You can also file a complaint against the dealer.  If you purchased your vehicle from a franchise (new car) dealer that also sells used cars, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit by calling 404-651-8600 or visiting www.consumer.ga.gov.  If, instead, you purchased your car from an independent used car dealer, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Secretary of State’s Board of Registration of Used Motor Vehicle Dealers at http://sos.ga.gov/plb/submitcomplaint.php. Keep in mind that the Board’s authority is limited to sanctions against a dealer’s license. The Board does not have the authority to get your title for you. 


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Dealer won't refund my deposit

March 15, 2016 15:21 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I paid a car dealer $300 as a deposit to confirm that I was interested in buying a particular car. He assured me that the car had a clean title and had not been in any accidents. He also assured me that he would return my deposit if I found any problems with the car. I got the VIN number from him and found out from CARFAX that the car had been in an accident.  I showed the CARFAX report to the dealer and asked him for my deposit back, but he refused to return it. What can I do?

Consumer Ed says:  

While many consumers are under the impression that there is a law which entitles them to a refund for a car deposit if they choose not to buy the car, this is not the case.  Usually, whether a deposit is refundable or non-refundable depends on what's written in a contract, on a receipt, or posted at the dealership.  But if there’s nothing that states otherwise, or if you agreed with the dealer that the funds would be returned in the event that the car had previously been in an accident, then the dealer should be required to refund the money.

In this case, if you believe that the dealer has no right to keep your deposit, you have several options.  The first thing you should do is write a letter to the dealer requesting that your money be returned. Send the letter via “Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested,” and pay the small additional fee to obtain proof of delivery. You should also submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), and ask their mediation department to contact the dealer to attempt to get your deposit back.  You can also submit a complaint to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at www.consumer.ga.gov, or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (outside metro Atlanta).  If you used a credit card to pay the deposit, you should also consider disputing the charge with your credit card company.  Even if you take this route, the assistance of the Better Business Bureau and the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit described above may still be helpful.  

If none of the above options result in the return of your deposit, you may want to consult with an attorney who can help you explore other legal options you may have. 

To avoid such issues in the future, and to help you avoid doing business with companies that use deceptive tactics, make sure you select a reputable auto dealer before you begin shopping for a car. You can research dealerships through the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org).  In addition, make sure that before you give a deposit to a dealer, you require that he or she create a written document stating the purpose of the payment, and under what circumstances, if any, you are entitled to a partial or full refund.  Finally, make certain that you read that document carefully and in its entirety before you sign it or hand over any money for a deposit. 


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