Delaney v. Garden State Auto Mall, 318 N.J.Super. 15 (App.Div 1995). Consumer Fraud and Auto Fraud.
In Delaney Plaintiff responded to a newspaper advertisement in the Asbury Park Press for a 1988 Ford Crown Victoria at defendant's advertised price of $5995. Plaintiff signed an internal authorization form, which listed the following items to be completed: rust proofing, undercoating, paint sealant and fabric guard. Underneath those four items, the following appeared: All this is included in payment with the payment with the power train warranty. $218.29 b.o. 36 months. Id 17-18.
Thereafter, a retail installment sales agreement was executed; the retail installment sales agreement did not include or enumerate any pricing or listing of any type of pre-delivery service. After plaintiff made all of the payments, he received a copy of the retail installment sales agreement, disclosing that he had paid $7983 for the vehicle, an amount $2200 more than the $5783 he had agreed to pay pursuant to the retail buyer's order. Upon contacting defendant, plaintiff learned that the $2200 discrepancy represented the cost for rust proofing, undercoating, paint sealer and fabric guard. The owner testified concerning the dealership costs associated with such services. He indicated that the dealership had a working relationship with Final Detail, Inc. and paid a flat fee of $85 per vehicle to do all vehicle cleanings and cosmetic detailing, including cleaning the motor area, interior shampooing of carpets and cleaning the exterior. Rust proofing, undercoating, paint sealer and fabric guard were also included items of work under the arrangement with Final Detail for this same price of $85. The owner had no knowledge of whether there were any discussions concerning the items for which plaintiff was charged $2200. He did indicate that the internal authorization form showed those items were authorized. He did acknowledge that the items for which defendant was charged $2200 were not enumerated in the retail sales agreement. Id 17-18.
The Appellate Division had no hesitancy in concluding that the circumstances presented were designed to be eliminated by the consumer fraud legislation. The items were not enumerated in the retail installment agreement, as required by N.J.A.C. 13:45A-26B.2. The Court specifically held that rust proofing, undercoating, paint sealer and fabric guard, the items associated with the added $2200 cost, are services included in vehicle preparation prior to the delivery of an automobile and must be disclosed as set forth in the Act.
The fact that certain pre-delivery services were not disclosed in the final sales agreement colored the result vividly in the case and reinforces the purpose of the Act in protecting the consumer against abusive automotive sales practices. Id 20-22.
This case is frequently used as a starting or jumping off point for the attack on deceptive or misleading dealership practices. The underlying point of this case is that you need full disclosure on anything that is sold to a customer. While the specific subset of products, pre-delivery services, was specifically addressed in this case the underlying concepts and principles that define a deceptive business act or a deceptive business practices equally applicable to the standard set forth in this case.
It might seem like common sense but when you sell a product you need to have full and accurate disclosure. When you sell a product you need to explain to the customer what they are getting. When you sell a product to the customer needs to understand the product that they getting and the cost that they are paying. I know these seems like common sense principles however when those bent on taking shortcuts and forcing the sale of these products to non suspecting customers utilize unscrupulous and deceptive practices New Jersey law provides a remedy and provides damages for those that of been subject to these practices and if improperly acquired various products including but not limited to any product that the dealership might sell. Full disclosure is was the best policy with regard to specific products or services which are being rendered. This applies to the sale of automobiles.
So you might find out after the transaction that you acquired a specific product and paid a specific price which was not revealed in the underlying transaction. Your remedy would be to request a refund and or file a claim for consumer fraud or fraud under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act against the selling dealer who sold you the vehicle and sold you the specific products.
A lawsuit is not the only option however it is the only option available to many attorneys who pursue dealerships for engaging and contemplating deceptive practices to the detriment of consumers who have sustained an ascertainable loss associated with the acquisition of purchase of a car or various products or services. It is important to remember that you need to find an attorney with a significant experience in this area of the law, the automotive industry.
This case and the holding in this case can be used to protect consumers.
It is a commonsense holding and conclusion of the court. If the automotive dealer attempts to sell you a predelivery service must be fully, honestly disclosed as part of the regularly sign the documents. In this case it was important because the person who was signing the documents are purchasing the transaction did not want the products. The dealer included them in the transaction over the plaintiff's objections. The same concept is applicable to products as well. There must be full and complete disclosure on the sale of products and services when purchasing the vehicle. There is a related posting called price packing. However, the dealer must disclose fully the products and services and have the consumer sign where the regulations state a signature is required. Products are treated differently than predelivery services. There is a different set of regulations that applies to strictly to predelivery services. Therefore, I say products might be different. However, generally, the same underlying claims can be asserted for nondisclosure of the sale of products. While these regulations might not directly apply the general concept of deceptive business practices can also be included in claims against the dealer for selling products which were not requested.
I have found on some occasions that the products are not disclosed until such time as claims are made when a GAP policy comes into effect. The Gap policy pays for the loan balance when the car is totaled. However sometimes the company the issues this policy will not pay for the products but only the purchase price. I have discovered on a transaction various product which were included which were not covered by the GAP product which was sold by the dealership.
I filed a Consumer Arbitration against the dealer for selling a product which was not covered under the GAP policy and increase the price of the vehicle and could not be reimbursed under this policy. I carefully reviewed the documents and there was no disclosure of the various products which were sold to the customer. There was no sign-up sheet. There was no menu. There was no indication at all these products were sold until the vehicle was getting totaled. This is a good example of the potentially deceptive business practices. If the car was not totaled there might be an argument that there is no ascertainable loss as the consumer received a type good. However, where the plaintiff was looking for reimbursement there is an ascertainable loss which is the purchase price of these products which was not disclosed.
The consumer attorney in Monmouth County, Tinton Falls New Jersey who has significant experience in litigating Consumer Fraud Act claims in New Jersey in Monmouth County and Tinton Falls