The Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law is a powerful tool for consumers in the fight against fraudulent and deceptive car sales by dealerships. The Unfair Trade Law gives car purchasers the ability to sue dealerships for a number of unfair or deceptive practices. Some improper actions by dealerships that violate the Unfair Trade Law include claiming that a vehicle is certified when it is not, misrepresenting the condition or features of a car, selling a car as new when it is used, failing to comply with a written warranty and misrepresenting that repairs are needed when they are not.
Under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and regulations supporting the law, a dealership must disclose if it knew or should have known that a car has a bent, cracked or twisted frame. Under this definition, I argue that a dealership is required to disclose frame damage even if it had been previously repaired. Even though unibody vehicles do not have a discrete frame, this provision of the Unfair Trade Law is still violated if a structural component on a unibody vehicle is bent, cracked or twisted.
The Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and regulations require dealerships to disclose if a car is not in a condition to pass state inspection at the time of the sale. Most dealerships interpret this as they just have to have a current inspection sticker on the car, but law goes further than that. Regardless of whether the car has a current inspection sticker, a vehicle must be in a condition to actually pass inspection on the date of the sale. This is important because some inspection garages take short cuts on inspections. Also, a vehicle may have been properly inspected, but serious problems can arise in a used vehicle if it has been many months since the inspection.
A dealership is in violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law if a salesperson or the dealership makes a statement or representation that they know is false or misleading or if they do not have a reasonable basis to know whether the representation is actually true. This provision of the law includes statements made in advertisements. This is why it is important to save a copy of the internet ad for a used car that you intend to purchase.
There is specific language required in both the purchase agreement and the window sticker for an AS IS clause under the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. If a dealership does not have the correct language in both the window sticker and the purchase agreement, the AS IS clause cannot be enforced by the dealership.
When cheated in a car purchase, most people immediately think of fraud, but the Unfair Trade Law in Pennsylvania is a better means to recover against a dealership than fraud. To recover for fraud in Pennsylvania, a consumer must prove all the parts of the claim by clear and convincing evidence. Clear and convincing evidence is not quite the same as the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt, but it is very close to beyond a reasonable doubt. Clear and convincing evidence is a very difficult standard to meet at a trial.
A consumer under the Unfair Trade Law only has to prove the case by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that if the court believes that the evidence favors the plaintiff over the defendant even by just the slightest amount, the plaintiff wins. It is much easier to prove a case under a preponderance standard than clear and convincing.
Another way that the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law can be more successful than a fraud claim is how long you have to bring suit. A claim for fraud must be brought in most circumstances with 2 years, which is fairly short. This is compared to a claim under the Unfair Trade Law, which can be brought within 6 years of the deceptive act.
These are just a few examples of how consumers can use the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law to hold dealerships accountable for wrongdoing in car sales. Attorney Christina Gill Roseman recently led a seminar for attorneys on the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. If you suspect that dealership committed a deceptive or fraudulent act when you purchased your vehicle, contact Attorney Christina Gill Roseman at Roseman Law Firm at 800-745-5259 or www.helpforlemoncars for more information about your potential rights.