NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced two new settlements in his crackdown on payment packing, or “jamming,” and the unlawful after-sale of credit repair and identity theft protection services provided by the now-defunct Credit Forget It Inc.
The state regulator reached settlement with Manhattan’s Potamkin Hyundai and Potamkin Mitsubishi and Value City Auto Group’s former Volkswagen of Huntington, Nissan of Huntington and Garden City Nissan dealerships in Long Island. Without admitting fault, they agreed to return more than $900,000 in restitution to nearly 6,400 consumers and $135,000 in penalties and costs to the state for selling the Credit Forget It services.
“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to worry that they will be duped when they are shopping for a car,” said Schneiderman. “We’ll continue to make sure dealerships are not illegally profiting by charging unsuspecting consumers thousands of dollars on unwanted items. I am pleased that we have now been able to return almost $19 million in restitution to those who have fallen victim to these unscrupulous tactics.”
In 2015, as part of the broader investigation, Schneiderman obtained a consent order that shut down Credit Forget It Inc., a New York-based company that sold the unlawful credit repair and identity theft protection services to the dealers as well as others. Since then, the attorney general has reached 13 settlements, with nearly 29,000 consumers eligible for restitution under those agreements.
It is a violation of state and federal law to charge upfront fees for services that promise to help consumers restore or improve their credit, and contracts that violate the law are void.
The attorney general’s investigations often found that dealerships bundled F&I protections, including the Credit Forget It products, service contracts, key replacement and security systems, into the vehicle sale prices instead of itemizing the costs separately. For some dealers, according to Schneiderman, consumers were totally unaware that they had received these services. In many other cases, consumers thought the services were free.
In addition to the more than $1 million in restitutions the two Manhattan and Long Island dealer groups agreed to pay, the settlement prohibits the operations from selling and marketing credit repair and identity theft services in connection with the sale or lease of a vehicle. They are also barred from selling F&I products or services unless, prior to such sale, certain material terms, including price, are disclosed verbally and in writing.
The dealership are also prohibited from misrepresenting the price of the vehicle in final lease or sale contracts, and failing to provide consumers with sales or lease agreements that clearly and conspicuously itemize each after-sale product or service and its price.