ALBANY, N.Y. — Nissan of New Rochelle will pay more than $298,000 to settle claims that the dealership willfully defrauded 298 car buyers of a total of $276,127 by tacking on a window-etch program that included a “Total Loss Protection” benefit after customers had agreed to a price for the vehicle and often without their knowledge or consent, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced this week.
In addition to refunding the cost of the product, which varied from $215 to more than $5,000 per vehicle, the dealership’s owners have agreed to pay the state $22,084 in penalties, fees and costs. They also agreed to “certain reforms” of the dealership’s sales and F& processes.
"Consumers should not have to worry that they are being scammed into adding on bogus products and services when they purchase a car,” Schneiderman said. “Buying a car is already a major investment for many families, and tacking on thousands of dollars extra can become a significant financial burden. I am pleased that we are able to return hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution to the nearly 300 consumers who were scammed and defrauded.”
According to Schneiderman, his office’s investigation into the 2015 complaint revealed that the product, described as a window- and windshield-etch program backed by a $3,000 or $5,000 guarantee against theft, was deceptive or outright fraudulent on at least three counts — tacking on the cost of the product without customers’ knowledge being one of them.
The regulator also charged that conditions and limitations related to the guarantee made it “essentially worthless.” The regulator noted that only one car buyer was issued credit under the program. The attorney general’s investigation also revealed that the “etching” of each vehicle’s VIN was actually a sticker affixed to the inside of a door or doorjam, and in many cases was not performed at all.
As part of the settlement, Nissan of New Rochelle’s directors have agreed to include full disclosures and explanations for each product and express consent on the car buyer’s part before any products can be added to the deal, according to the regulator’s statement.