On January 20, New York AG Schneiderman announced a lawsuit against several auto dealerships located in Queens, New York, alleging that the dealerships used deceptive sales tactics to sell add-on products and services, including credit repair and identity theft protection services. According to the lawsuit, the dealerships charged “consumers for services while concealing such charges from the consumers, or [misrepresented] that the services were free,” collecting more than $1 million from consumers between January 2013 and November 2014 for the identity theft and credit repair services alone. The lawsuit further alleges that consumers did not receive the services for which they were charged, including VIN etching and key replacement services. AG Schneiderman alleges these products and services were “bundled into the vehicle sales price and not separately itemized,” ultimately inflating the stated price of the car on the purchase and lease documents. The lawsuit seeks a court order that would (i) prohibit the dealerships from engaging in deceptive practices; and (ii) order the dealerships to refund “all illegally obtained overcharges” back to consumers.
As part of his initiative to end dealerships’ practices of charging consumers for “hidden purchases,” AG Schneiderman simultaneously announced separate settlements with dealerships in Nassau and Suffolk Counties that allegedly sold credit repair and identity theft protection services to consumers. This is in addition to similar 2015 settlements with a “credit repair and identity theft protection” company and a group of dealerships in Queens and Westchester Counties, the latter potentially totaling $14 million.