Nissan dealers forced to pay out $1.9M after state probe of N.Y. locations, including Staten Island – SILive.com

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Five area Nissan dealerships are paying out $1.9 million in settlements following an investigation by state officials into lease buyout fees, according to a press release sent out Thursday by the office of state Attorney General Letitia James.

The investigation determined dealerships in New York City and on Long Island, including Nissan of Staten Island, overcharged a total of more than 1,000 customers who wanted to purchase leased vehicles at the end of their lease term. As a result, they’re now paying more than $1.6 million in restitution to more than 1,100 consumers, and a combined civil penalty of $340,000, the press release continued.

“Ignoring agreements and adding bogus fees harms New York consumers, and that is something my office won’t allow to go unchallenged,” said James in a written statement. “These car dealerships lined their pockets at the expense of hardworking New Yorkers who were trying to have a reliable car to get to work, take their children to school, run errands, and live their daily lives. Our investigation and settlement put money back into New Yorkers’ pockets and send a clear message that lying to New Yorkers and manipulating costs with shady tactics will not be tolerated.”

The following dealerships are in the process of paying out the following;

  • Nissan of Staten Island: $282,255.61 to 184 consumers and a $55,200 penalty.
  • Baron Nissan will pay $204,656.89 to 186 consumers and a $51,190 penalty.
  • Nissan of Kings will pay $437,560.86 to 420 consumers and a $147,000 penalty.
  • Nissan of Queens will pay $608,347.83 to 276 consumers and a $69,757 penalty.
  • Nissan of Westbury will pay $102,636.07 to 72 consumers and a $19,440 penalty.

The penalties vary based on the number of consumers overcharged and the “pervasiveness and severity” of the overcharging, officials said.

The dealers also have agreed to audit all transactions between the start of the investigation and the present, and will provide additional refunds to overcharged consumers identified in that audit.

A spokesman for Nissan issued the following statement Friday:

“Nissan is dedicated to building long-term customer relationships by providing transparent information about its services and how they work.

“Customers who have financed their lease with Nissan Motor Acceptance Company (NMAC) may decide to purchase their vehicle at the predetermined purchase option price contained in their lease, plus any incidental charges necessary to complete the transaction as identified in the agreement. We expect Nissan dealers to honor the lease agreement. Information for NMAC lessees is available at www.nissanusa.com/owners/benefits/end-of-lease.html. Customers may also contact NMAC at 800-778-4211 with questions about their purchase options.

“For customers who have leased through companies or organizations other than NMAC, the expectation for Nissan dealers remains the same – to honor the lease agreement and what was decided between the dealer and customer at the beginning of the lease period. The customer should address with the dealership and leasing organization directly should there be any issue.”

OVERCHARGING CUSTOMERS

Customers were leased Nissan vehicles under an agreement that gave them the option to purchase their car for a set amount after the lease term ended. But when they returned at the end of the lease, the dealerships substantially overcharged them, either by adding miscellaneous “dealership fees” or “administrative fees,” or inflating the price on the invoice given to the consumer, officials said.

In some instances, customers were overcharged as much as $7,000 on an $18,000 vehicle, the investigation found.

The dealerships also sent out deceptive invoices to customers, by misrepresenting illegal upcharges as government fees — such as a $37 state inspection fee that dealers charged as $300, and a $50 title fee dealers charged as $500, officials allege.

New York law guarantees every consumer the right to a complete and accurate receipt for every car sale, “yet thousands of examined invoices failed that basic test,” officials said.

ELIGIBLE FOR REIMBURSEMENT

Consumers entitled to restitution do not need to take any action to receive payment, as dealerships already have begun paying them out through mailed checks in the full amount of the overcharge. The dealers also agreed to reform their invoicing practices to ensure all lease buyout customers are neither overcharged nor provided with inaccurate receipts.

James asks any consumers who may have been affected by deceptive or fraudulent lease buyout practices file a consumer complaint online at https://ag.ny.gov/file-complaint/consumer/vehicle.

State Sen. Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee, said in part:

“I applaud Attorney General James taking actions against deceptive Nissan dealerships. Preying on hardworking New Yorkers looking for reliable and affordable cars is unacceptable.”

The OAG press release also credited the work of Assistant Attorney General Alec Webley of the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Jane M. Azia and Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine.

The Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau is a part of the Division of Economic Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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