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September 18, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Two used car buyers claim dealers violated Truth in Lending Act

Auto dealers in New Rochelle and White Plains have been accused of pressuring two used car customers to approve revised sales contracts that set drastically different financing terms.

Steven Bryan of the Bronx sued New Rochelle Hyundai and Jonisha Wimbush of Mount Vernon sued Chrysler Jeep of White Plains in federal court, citing the Truth in Lending Act.

The federal law is designed to protect customers who finance transactions by requiring clear and conspicuous disclosure of the terms and costs of deals.

Bryan said that he visited the Hyundai dealership on Jan. 18 and agreed to buy a 2016 Hyundai Sante Fe. He made a $1,500 down payment, got the registration, license plate and keys, and drove away.

A month later, he claims, he was told to return and sign a new contract. He alleges that he was told that if he didn’t, the vehicle would be reported as stolen.

Bryan said that he believed he had no choice.

The new sales contract increased the costs of the deal, including the annual percentage rate from 19.99 to 22.57, the finance charge from $15,213 to $15,546, the monthly payments from $464.43 to $469.81 and the number of payments from 72 to 75.

The changes added $1,006, for a total of $36,332.

A man who identified himself as Michael, from the dealer’s parent company, Leader in Cars Auto Group in Hempstead, declined to comment on-the-record about the allegations.

“There is no story,” he said.

Wimbush tells a similar story. She visited Chrysler Jeep of White Plains on Dec. 5 and made a $500 down payment on a 2015 Jeep Wrangler.

She was given the registration and license plates, the complaint states, “and was led to believe that the transaction was finished.”

But when she returned a few weeks later to refer a friend, she claims, she was told she had to make an additional down payment to keep the Jeep.

A new sales agreement increased the annual percentage rate from 14.8 to 20.5, the finance charge from $16,684 to $21,594, and the monthly payments from $582.01 to $699.54.

The changes added $2,869 for a total price of $52,474.

The dealer’s CEO, Agostino DiFeo, said he was not at liberty to discuss the specifics, but he acknowledges the complaint, categorically denies the accusations and stands on his 20-year history in White Plains, “which speaks for itself.”

The lawsuits accuse the dealers of violations of the federal Truth in Lending Act, deceptive practices under state law, and fraud.

They demand cancellation of the deals, return of all finance charges and interest, and damages equal to twice the amounts of the finance charges.

Both buyers are represented by David M. Kasell, a Long Island City attorney who touts himself as the “Queens Lemon Law Lawyer.” Kasell has filed at least 37 lawsuits against car companies since 2007, in the federal courts that cover New York City and the suburbs.

“Roughly 85 percent of his cases,” he claims, “settle.”