CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT TRAPS

With class action lawsuits, a minor oversight repeated across multiple customers can easily grow into a big source of risk and cost.  Here are 8 areas with the most frequent and severe claims:

• Truth in Lending Act (TILA):  Effective July 21st, the dollar threshold for consumer credit and lease transactions exempt from TILA and the Consumer Leasing Act was doubled to $50,000, meaning a much larger set of transactions will be subject to those rules. Under TILA, dealerships need to pay particular attention to backdating and hiding negative equity.

• Payment packing:  Nearly every attorney general in the U.S. has deemed this to be unlawful and deceptive; even if there is not a specific statute in your state, you can still be sued for it.

• Overcharging of government fees:  Don’t assume everything your DMS spits out is automatically correct or legal. Some systems are better than others. Even a $1.75 new tire fee can add up to huge liability when multiplied by thousands of customers over several years.

• Lumping of government fees:  While this problem is often associated with California, specific itemization requirements for various government fees apply in other states too. Even practices permitted under TILA may actually be unlawful in your particular state.

• Prior vehicle history:  Dealerships that rely on vehicle history reports can run into trouble when it turns out there are errors or omissions in some reports. Attaching a disclosure or disclaimer to these reports is a good idea.

• Single document rule:  Not every state has this rule requiring that all obligations of both parties to a transaction be contained in a single document, but it can be a devastating action for violators in affected jurisdictions.

• Employment: Key problem areas include pay plans, overtime, technician pay, service advisor exemption, and meal and rest period policies. If you don’t have written pay plans in effect for all personnel, you are already at risk.

• Non-disclosure of accessories:  This includes items like alarms, service contracts, GAP insurance and window etching.