Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law provides a lot of protection for consumers, like yourself, who buy used cars. Just as Pennsylvania law requires a dealership to disclose certain prior damage BEFORE selling you the vehicle, Pennsylvania law also requires a dealership to disclose certain prior use, like rental, reconstructed vehicle, lemon branding, or demonstrator.
At Morrow and Artim, P.C., we receive a lot of phone calls from people who recently purchased a used vehicle. Most of the time, it is because the check engine light came on. That check engine light could mean A LOT of things. It could mean the transmission is going bad or the engine head is cracked. But, it could also be something more internal and less obvious. Our potential client has called the dealership who says, “Sorry, there is nothing we can do!”
After speaking with this person for about 5 minutes, we can usually guess what the problem is: There is some kind of negative history that wasn’t disclosed BEFORE finalizing the sale. We do a brief background investigation, and sure enough, there was a violation of the law and this potential client may be eligible to get his or her money back and have the dealership pay for our services.
What is “Prior Use”
Prior Use is exactly what it sounds like. Someone before you owned your used car. Sometimes, if the car is older, 2 or 3 people may have owned the car before you. There are a countless number of things this previous owner could have done with the car. Maybe the previous owner needed a car to drive his family around town. This would be residential or household use. Perhaps the dealership used the car as a demonstration vehicle. Or, maybe the car was previous owned by a rental company, like Hertz. Regardless of the reason, you should always know the history of your car before you buy it. Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law even mandates that the dealership must tell you about certain prior usage.
The most common undisclosed prior use is for rental cars. The common scenario involves a rental company, like Enterprise, using the vehicle as a rental car for a few years. The rental company then sells the vehicle through an auto auction. The car eventually winds up on the used car lot you went to and you buy it without ever knowing it was a rental car. Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law requires the dealership to tell you that the vehicle was previously used as a rental car BEFORE you guy it. Pennsylvania law requires this disclosure because we all know how rental cars are treated. If you knew your car was a rental car before you bought it, you likely would not have bought the car, or you would have agreed to pay significantly less.
Lemon Law Branding
Another common prior use issue in Used Car/Auto Fraud law is Lemon Branding. This basically means that the used car you bought was previously labeled a “LEMON.” This Lemon label acts as a branding on the used car. For the life of the car, every owner after the Lemon branding must be told that the car was labeled a Lemon at one time. Car manufacturers will try to hide this branding by buying and selling the car numerous times through private sales and auctions. If your car was previously labeled as a Lemon, Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law requires the dealership to tell you BEFORE you buy the car.
Other Prior Use Problems
The list of prior use covered in the Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law is rather long, but not commonly seen. It is rare that a used car gets sold that was previously used as a taxicab or police car without the dealership telling the buyer before the sale. Similarly, we don’t often see used cars that qualify as modified vehicles, reconstructed vehicles, or specially constructed vehicles. But, Pennsylvania law requires that all of this prior use be disclosed.
How We Can Help
At Morrow and Artim, P.C. we have the resources and experience to help you prove the that the dealership violated the law when they sold you the used car. Pennsylvania Auto Fraud law requires us to prove that the dealerships knew, or should have known, about the prior use issue. If your used car has a negative prior use history, a simple background check of the car will often reveal this problem. Once a lawsuit is filed, more extensive legal investigations can take place to help prove that the dealership had all of the information available before the sale. If we are successful, you could win your money back, 3 times that amount in damages, and make the dealership pay for your attorney. Give us a call before you do anything else. We need to get to work right away.