State prosecutors have announced settlements with two Long Island car dealerships accused of selling add-on services such as credit repair and identity theft protection using “deceptive and misleading” tactics. Together, the dealerships will refund more than $118,000 to consumers.
The state attorney general’s office said the dealerships, Westbury Jeep Chrysler Dodge and Fiat, and Security Dodge in Amityville, sold “illegal” credit repair and identity theft protection services.
Credit repair is the process of fixing a bad credit report, says the website Investopedia.com. It may be as simple as fixing mistakes with the credit agencies or require extensive work to deal with fundamental financial issues, such as budgeting, and begin to address legitimate concerns on the part of lenders.
It is a violation of state and federal law to charge upfront fees for credit repair services, the attorney general’s office said Wednesday. The civil settlements require the dealerships to halt the illegal practices and to itemize the cost of any such “after-sale” items in sale and lease agreements.
An attorney for Westbury Jeep Chrysler Dodge and Fiat, Stuart Rosenthal of White Plains, said his client sold credit and identity theft services supplied by a vendor, Credit Forget It, which was shut down last year under a consent order with Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s office.
“The dealership believed the product was appropriate and legal, and sold it for what it believed was a fair price to consumers,” he said.
An attorney for Security, Karl C. Seman, said his client was defrauded by Credit Forget It, which represented its products to the dealership as legal and supplied letters from two attorneys verifying that. Customers were clearly told about the product and its cost, Seman said Thursday. The Westbury dealership will refund more than $100,000 to consumers, which represents the full profits it received from selling credit repair and identity protection, Schneiderman said. It will also pay $5,000 in penalties and $5,000 in costs.
Security Dodge will refund more than $18,000 to consumers, which represents its profits on credit repair and identity theft services. It will also pay $5,000 in penalties.
Schneiderman’s office has been cracking down on the practice known as jamming, in which unscrupulous dealers sell consumers add-ons they didn’t request or desire, sometimes concealing the sales from consumers or misrepresenting the services as free.
In a related case, Schneiderman also announced a lawsuit Wednesday against several Queens dealerships that operate under the Koeppel family name, also involving the sale of credit repair and identity theft services.