AG Healey Sues Owner of South Shore Used Car Dealership for Selling Unsafe Motor Vehicles
AG Obtains Court Order Prohibiting Auto Number One from Deceptive Sales Tactics
BOSTON – The owner of a South Shore used car business has been sued for allegedly selling unsafe and unreliable used cars, failing to make repairs which were promised or required under warranties, and operating in unlicensed locations, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
“People depend on car dealers to sell them a vehicle that is safe and reliable for everyday use,” AG Healey said. “The public is put at risk as long as these defective vehicles are on the roadway, and our office will work to ensure that this business is no longer deceiving consumers into purchasing unsafe, unreliable vehicles.”
The complaint against Auto Number One, Inc. and its owner Mark Hanna of Abington, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that they routinely made false representations to consumers that cars were in good working order or would be repaired, about prices charged, and about warranty periods. The business allegedly failed to issue refunds to consumers who attempted to return vehicles after discovering, within days, substantial defects which made the cars unfit for the road.
The AG’s Office obtained a preliminary injunction on Monday, Feb. 23 against the defendants, prohibiting them from advertising or selling vehicles from any location not properly licensed, or from engaging in the kinds of unfair and deceptive practices the AG alleges they have committed to date. The court also ordered the defendants’ bank accounts frozen.
Many consumers purchased vehicles from Auto Number One because they were lured by offers of “low or no down payment” with guaranteed financing, but Hanna had consumers fill out blank contracts. Consumers believed they were purchasing cars for a certain agreed upon price, only to learn after receiving a copy of their purchase agreements that the total purchase was at least twice the agreed-upon purchase price. On one occasion, a consumer was charged $10,000 more than the agreed-upon price of $3,500 for a used vehicle that still required costly repairs.
Some consumers whose vehicles required extensive and expensive repairs sought full refunds, or assistance with making repairs, but they were allegedly ignored or turned away by Hanna. He allegedly told one consumer that “it’s not my problem,” despite repeated attempts to contact him. Hanna also misrepresented the status of the warranty to consumers during the time Auto Number One held the car for alleged repairs.
Auto Number One, which previously operated out of locations in Weymouth and Quincy, presently advertises vehicles for sale from a lot located in Abington. The AG’s complaint alleges that Auto Number One advertised and sold vehicles from a location on Washington Street in Weymouth, even though it did not hold a dealership license for this location and could only perform auto repairs, and advertised and sold vehicles from an unlicensed lot located on Adams Street in Quincy. In order to operate as a used vehicle dealership, or to display used motor vehicles for sale, a person must obtain a license from the city or town.
In light of National Consumer Protection Week, the AG’s Office offers the following advice for consumers buying a used car from a dealer:
- Ask a friend or relative to recommend a reputable dealer, and research the dealer online;
- Determine the value of the vehicle before you negotiate the purchase. Check the National Automobile Dealers Association's (NADA) Guides, Edmunds, and Kelley Blue Book;
- Do not buy a used car until it has been inspected by a mechanic of your choosing. Research the price and reliability of the car before you buy it, and obtain reports about a vehicle’s history. Test drive the car under varied road conditions. If a salesman promises to fix vehicle defects, do not purchase the vehicle until you have confirmed that the promised repairs have been made;
- Carefully review a contract for all terms of a proposed sale. Do not let a salesman pressure you into spending more money than you can afford, or making a hasty decision. Make sure you leave with a fully executed sale agreement, with no blank areas. Total purchase price and any financing terms should be clearly stated. Make sure you get a copy of the sale agreement signed by the dealer at the time of purchase;
- If a dealer offers you an extended warranty, carefully read and understand the warranty terms, including whether there are any deductibles, what repairs are covered, and under what conditions;
- Take your vehicle immediately after purchase for a safety and emissions inspection, and know your rights under the Massachusetts Lemon Aid Law in case your vehicle does not pass inspection; and
- Know your rights under the Massachusetts Used Vehicle Warranty Law, which may provide a statutory warranty for vehicles with fewer than 125,000 miles. Consult with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for more information.
The action against Auto Number One by the AG’s Office seeks injunctive relief, restitution, penalties, costs, and attorney’s fees for violations of the state’s consumer protection laws. Consumers with questions or concerns can call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint with the office.
The matter is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Jennifer David of Attorney General Healey’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from David Monahan, Deputy Chief of the Consumer Protection Division, and Investigator Anthony Crespi.