August 1, 2004
Auto Dealer Dilemma
Q: I purchased a new minivan, [however], I did not ask how much each option cost. After several attempts, I [spoke] to the salesman and he told me that he eliminated the destination fee and only charged $200 over dealer’s cost. The bottom line: These options were not itemized, and [my research shows] I was overcharged by $1,000. Do I have any legal recourse?
–A. Davis, Brooklyn, NY
A: It looks like you’re in a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, you may seek recourse by filing a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Consumer Fraud in your state. Typically, once the paperwork is reviewed, both parties are contacted and a mediation process takes place to settle the dispute. You may also want to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).
On the other hand, “when things are verbally said, nothing is set in stone. Once the final agreement is done, it is a binding agreement,” says Darius Griffith of the Consumer Fraud and Protection Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office (www.oag.state.ny.us; 800-771-7755).
Otherwise, “they should have signed a purchase agreement or installment contract which would list prices for the [options in question],” says Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety (www.autosafety.org) in Washington, D.C. “There should also be a window sticker that will have the manufacturers suggested retail price. Sometimes, there’s even a supplemental sticker to list the options.” Nonetheless, get your paperwork in order and file the complaint today!