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Compliance

W. Va. Attorney General Files Suit Against Used-Car Dealer

May 27, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Earlier this month, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced that his office filed suit in Cabell County Circuit Court against Downtown Used Auto Sales, alleging numerous violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act and other applicable consumer protection laws and regulations.

The Office of the Attorney General first opened an investigation into Downtown Used Auto Sales in September 2012 after receiving numerous complaints from consumers. At the time the suit was filed, the office had received 22 formal complaints alleging a wide range of violations of the state’s consumer protection laws in the sale and financing of used motor vehicles.

The allegations included that owner Thomas J. Matthews sold unsafe vehicles, refused to repair significant mechanical defects, added unlawful finance charges, repossessed vehicles without the required legal notices and illegally disposed of consumers’ personal property. The office issued an investigative subpoena to the car dealer on April 25, 2013, which asked for documents and information about his sales and financing practices.

The filing summarizes 18 consumer complaints that illustrate the serious issues that consumers encountered with Downtown Used Auto Sales, including the sale of vehicles with mechanical defects, vehicles that could not pass inspection, illegal finance charges and fees, and repossessions without the required notices.

“In one of the examples included within the allegations, a consumer had her vehicle — which was not even able to pass inspection — repossessed without notice as required by law,” Morrisey said. “When she called them to ask about retrieving her personal belongings in the car — including her college textbooks, her bible, and an infant’s car seat — she was told the vehicle had been ‘cleaned out’ already, and all of her possessions were discarded.”

The suit asks the court to enter an order prohibiting Matthews from violating the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, and also asks the court to award civil penalties to the state and restitution to all consumers who have been aggrieved by the dealership’s practices.

“Many used car dealers provide a valuable service by offering affordable, reliable vehicles to consumers who may not be able to obtain credit from mainstream lenders,” Morrisey said. “However, being willing to extend credit under those circumstances doesn’t excuse a dealer from its basic obligations under our state’s consumer protection laws.”

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