NATICK – A used car dealership with multiple locations in Massachusetts has agreed to pay restitution to consumers and reform its business practices to resolve allegations that it routinely sold unreliable cars, misled consumers about financing arrangements, used false advertising including bait and switch tactics, and charged excessive document preparation fees, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today, July 12.
“This dealership saddled consumers with high-cost loans and sold unreliable cars that needed expensive repairs,” Healey said. “As a result, many of these drivers were left with significant debt for unusable vehicles. Used car dealers in Massachusetts need to know that we will go after them if they take illegal and unfair advantage of consumers. Our office is pleased that this dealership has taken the steps needed to reform its business practices and will provide thousands of dollars in restitution.”
The AG’s Office entered into an Assurance of Discontinuance, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, with 181 South Main Street, Inc. d/b/a Auto Drive One. The settlement resolves the AG’s claims that the dealership’s sales and financing practices violated the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act along with the AG’s regulations.
Auto Drive One is a used car dealership located at 181 South Main Street, West Bridgewater and additional business locations in Natick and East Sandwich. Auto Drive One formerly had dealership locations in Saugus, Dorchester and Swansea, which are now closed.
The AG’s Office alleges that Auto Drive One misled consumers about car financing that the business could obtain by claiming it would get consumers “affordable” loans, when the majority of loans it obtained for consumers were subprime loans with 21 percent interest rates. Many of these auto loans were originated under recourse agreements with third party lenders that the company knew, or should have known, consumers would not have the ability to repay. Many of the cars had serious mechanical problems and other defects that made them unreliable or unusable for more than a short period of time.
Under the terms of the settlement, Auto Drive One will pay $50,000 in consumer restitution, with an additional $240,000 in civil penalties suspended pending compliance with the terms of the settlement. The dealership has also agreed that it will not seek to collect more than $650,000 on loans that ended in repossession. The dealership will reduce its standard “document preparation fee” by $100 and has instituted other business practice reforms.
Auto Drive One fully cooperated with the AG’s investigation. The dealership is under new management and represents that it is committed to employing better business practices. The terms of the settlement provide for continued oversight of the dealership by the AG’s Office.
The AG’s Office continues to look into deceptive practices in the auto industry. Over the past year, the AG’s Office shut down a dealership for selling unsafe cars and obtained an injunction against another dealership to stop it from selling unsafe cars and from providing consumers with incomplete or inaccurate paperwork.
The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Shennan Kavanagh, Samantha Shusterman and Lisa Dyen of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from Investigators Ciara Tran and Shannon Roark.