BROWARD COUNTY, Florida. – Consumers should not pay dealer fees when purchasing a car lease. This has been the focus of two recent Local 10 News investigations.
Despite a federal law in place and consumers trying to fight back, the complaints keep pouring in. State lawmakers said the practice must end.
“I would like the consumer not to be fooled,” said State Rep. Dan Daley of District 97.
The practice continues. Lawyer Joshua Feygin is representing some of the victims in an arbitration claim against 25 different dealers.
“It’s mind-boggling how dealers disregard what they’re allowed to do and what the law requires. Almost every consumer who’s contacted me has a complaint,” Feygin said.
There is a federal law, the Consumer Leasing Act, which states that all charges billed at the end must be disclosed in the contract at the outset, according to Feygin.
Some consumers disputed past charges paid and a few dealers issued refunds.
Adonai Dasilva said there was a $2,000 charge for his Kia lease even though his contract said there was no charge.
Bob Palumbo tried to fight off a $900 dealer fee to buy out the lease on his Ford Ranger and was told there were no exceptions.
Stefano D’aniello was hit with $2,500 in dealer fees to buy out the lease on his Lexus.
The Coral Springs Auto Mall charges customers an electronic filing fee of $449. The Department of Motor Vehicles does not change this.
The owner of Earl Stewart Toyota in northern Palm Beach County said it cost him $10. Stewart had been a dealer since 1968. He charges no fees.
“I think there are different state agencies that pass the buck and don’t get to the bottom of how we solve an issue like this.”
Senator Lauren Book was Vice President of Regulated Industries last year.
“I think what you’ve discovered and what we’re seeing through your reports is that the system in place isn’t working.”
Some dealerships charge this fee, some don’t.
“If we have to develop a policy to make sure that happens, we do it,” Book said.
State Rep. Dan Daley said the first time he could introduce legislation on the matter would be in March.
A spokesperson for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said 40 complaints about lease buyouts had been received. They investigate to see if they fall under deceptive and unfair business practices.
Those complaints were also forwarded to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which licenses auto dealerships.
“These guys sold me my car. Once they smile at me, now they close the door. I feel very despised by them. — very, very disrespectful,” Dasilva said.
The Florida Automobile Dealers Association represents more than 1,000 dealerships statewide and also provides legislative representation. Local 10 News has asked for comment on this issue, and so far we haven’t heard back.
Read the full statement from the Florida Attorney’s office:
“The terms of a lease buyout are generally determined by the individual lease agreement. Automakers may also provide some oversight of their dealerships’ lease terms. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has enforcement authority, under Regulation M and the Federal Consumer Leasing Act, and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation has regulatory authority, under Florida Motor Vehicle Retail Sales Finance Act.
“Our Consumer Protection Division has civil jurisdiction over violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Our office was able to locate approximately 40 complaints this year regarding lease buyouts. All of those complaints were referred to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the state agency that licenses auto dealerships. Our Consumer Protection Division is also currently reviewing these complaints for any pattern or practice that violates the FDUTPA.
“If a consumer suspects a scam, they can report it to our office by calling 1 (866) 9NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at MyFloridaLegal.com.”
Read the full statement from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles:
“The ministry does not have jurisdiction over the leasing companies that are awarded a contract. While the dealer facilitates the final transaction, the remedy for the consumer ultimately lies in the arbitration clause, if not informally by contacting the leasing company. Chapter 320, FS, does not list a disciplinary violation for a dealer imposing an accurately disclosed fee to facilitate the sale of the vehicle at the end of a lease.
“We appreciate you bringing these cases to our attention, and it is certainly concerning to see the issues these consumers face as they attempt to navigate the lease buyout process. While the department is limited to what we can do within the law in terms of regulations, we are committed to helping consumers know what to look for, what to ask for and what rights they have when it comes to buying a vehicle in Florida Our website contains lots of information for consumers, found here. Consumers looking to purchase their vehicle at the end of the lease may also be well served to contact multiple dealerships to determine which one charges the lowest fees.
“We encourage consumers experiencing issues with an authorized reseller to file a complaint with the department. If the department receives a complaint about a dealer, it will investigate the complaint and, if violations are found, work to obtain voluntary compliance with the dealer to resolve the issue for the customer and provide the customer with all possible resources. Additionally, if the department receives a complaint for which it does not have statutory authority, the complaints are forwarded to the appropriate other departments. Complaint forms are available here on our website.
“Finally, the Florida Attorney General’s Office has helpful information for consumers looking to lease a vehicle on their website.”
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