Westport Used Auto Dealership and Owner Ordered to Stop Selling Unsafe Vehicles to Consumers
Order Comes After AG’s Office Sued Company After Receiving More Than 100 Consumer Complaints
NEW BEDFORD – A Westport used auto dealership and its owner have been ordered to stop selling unsafe and unreliable vehicles to consumers in an enforcement action filed by Attorney General Maura Healey.
A request for emergency injunctive relief was granted in New Bedford Superior Court against F&R Auto Sales, Inc. (F&R Auto) in Westport and owner Francis Correiro of Assonet.
The AG’s Office sued the dealership and Correiro on Sept. 13 after receiving more than 100 consumer complaints since 2012 about their alleged unfair and deceptive practices, including the routine sale of defective vehicles and the failure to provide proper transactional documents to consumers.
“These defendants not only took advantage of consumers, they also put the safety of the public at risk by knowingly allowing unsafe vehicles onto the roads,” said AG Healey. “We will not allow companies to use abusive practices to reap illegal profits from vulnerable Massachusetts consumers, including those who have been stuck with defective cars and debt because of this company.”
The injunction, effective immediately, prohibits the defendants from selling unsafe and defective vehicles and refusing to repair them and also requires them to supply consumers with the statutorily required transactional documentation.
According to the AG’s complaint, F&R Auto and Correiro violated the state consumer protection laws by using unfair and deceptive acts in the sale of used motor vehicles in Massachusetts.
The AG’s Office conducted an investigation into the dealership in cooperation with the Westport Police Department and the Westport Board of Selectmen. During a series of inspections of the dealership in 2015 and 2016, Westport Police found vehicles in decrepit conditions and evidence of shoddy repair work being performed. They also found piles of documents containing sensitive personal consumer information, including Social Security and financial account numbers in an open dumpster on the site.
Based on complaints against F&R Auto, the AG’s lawsuit alleges that the defendants frequently misrepresented to buyers that vehicles were safe and reliable in order to make sales. The AG’s Office examined inspection reports of recently purchased vehicles that revealed significant safety issues, including defects in suspension, emissions, airbags, directional lights, and brakes.
The AG’s investigation also found that consumers would often drive away from the dealership and the check engine light would come on or the car would fail a safety and emissions test after they purchased it. When consumers discovered issues with their cars, the dealership would allegedly frequently dismiss them or refuse to make repairs. In one case, a consumer was quoted nearly $16,000 in repairs needed on a car he got from the dealership – a price that far exceeded what he paid for the car.
The dealership and Correiro also failed to provide consumers with statutorily mandated purchase transactional documents, including Motor Vehicle Purchase Contracts (MVPC), Retail Installment Sales Contracts (RISC), odometer statements and title documents, thereby interfering with consumers’ ability to fully exercise their legal rights.
The lawsuit further alleges that F&R Auto and Correiro illegally disclaimed warranties on the vehicles and failed to properly execute assignment and warranty of title on vehicles they sold.
AG Healey’s complaint against the defendants seeks injunctive relief and restitution for consumers, as well as penalties, costs, and attorneys’ fees. Consumers who believe they have been harmed by F&R’s sales practices should call AG’s the dedicated hotline at (508) 742-4514. For other tips or questions about the auto industry, consumers may call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint with the office.
The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Lizabeth Lagarto Marshall and Consumer Advocate Diane Lopes Flaherty of Attorney General Healey’s Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Office, with assistance from Deputy Chief Shennan Kavanagh and Assistant Attorney General Samantha Shusterman of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, Stephen Marshalek, Chief of the AG’s Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Office, and Investigator Colleen Frost.