Star Toyota of Bayside used fraudulent, deceptive and unlawful practices to sell and finance vehicles to Chinese-speakers who lacked English language skills and were not familiar with typical auto sales practices, Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday.
The dealer will have to pay $100,000 in civil penalties to the state and $186,855 in restitution to 21 known customers.
The business advertised in Chinese-language publications, inviting consumers to come in and meet with the dealership’s Chinese-speaking sales reps, James said. The sales staff built a trusting relationship with customers and reassured them that they could trust them because of their common language.
Instead, the dealership preyed upon the customers by having them sign contracts to purchase their vehicles at higher costs than agreed to during Chinese-language negotiations, the AG’s Office said. The sales reps increased the consumers’ total costs by adding unwanted aftermarket products to customers’ contacts without the customers’ knowledge or consent.
The aftermarket items jammed into the contracts included unwanted supplemental warranties, service contracts and theft insurance policies. The dealership often failed to provide buyers with copies of the sales or lending contracts, which prevented the consumers from discovering how the dealership had increased their final costs, according to James.
Star Toyota regularly submitted inflated or made-up personal financial information to their lenders to secure loans that the customers struggled to pay. The sales reps would take advantage of these consumers’ lack of familiarity with domestic auto sales practices by demanding tips or taking cash from consumers for expenses that were already included in their transactions.
A notice of the settlement will be publicized in a local Chinese publication, the AG’s Office said, allowing additional claimants to come forward to claim restitution during a 90-day window.
James wants any Chinese-speaking consumers who believe they were deceived by the dealership from Jan. 1, 2014 to March 1, 2018 to file a complaint at ag.ny.gov/star-toyota-of-bayside-settlement or by telephone at 1 (800) 771-7755.