March 27, 2009

A car dealership in Orange, New Jersey has settled charges with the state that it falsified consumer credit ratings on loan applications. The dealer, Compass Dodge, Inc., has agreed not to do it in the future.

Compass Dodge will pay $50,000 in civil penalties and as reimbursement for the state's investigative and legal costs, under terms of the Consent Order between the parties. An additional $92,500 in civil penalties is suspended but will become due and immediately payable if Compass Dodge violates terms of the Consent Order during the next year.

The dealership's future business practices must conform to state laws and regulations related to used motor vehicle sales and advertising.

"We expect dealerships to adhere to our Consumer Fraud Act, Motor Vehicle Advertising regulations and Used Car Lemon Law and regulations when offering used vehicles for sale," New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram said. "We remain vigilant and ready to act against those who attempt to take advantage of consumers."

Under the Consent Order, Compass Dodge agreed not to misrepresent consumer credit information when submitting such information to lending institutions for the purpose of securing financing for motor vehicle purchases. Compass Dodge also agreed to modify its advertising practices to ensure compliance with all disclosure requirements.

Falsified mortgage applications led to many home loans that should never have been made, helping set up the recent mortgage meltdown. Some auto industry insiders have warned that similar practices in the auto industry could result in similar problems.

"Purchasing a used car is a major expense for consumers, especially in these difficult financial times. Accurate consumer credit information ensures that buyers don't get in over their heads and obtain loans that they cannot afford," said David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director.

During the next three years, the Division will forward any consumer complaints received about Compass Dodge to the dealership for its handling. The Division must be informed of how each complaint is resolved. Compass Dodge agreed to submit consumer complaints that it cannot resolve to binding arbitration.