NEW YORK — The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) has filed charges against Queens-based Major World and its three used-vehicle dealerships for allegedly employing deceptive financing and sales practices that targeted low-income and immigrant consumers.
Filed with the City’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), the DCA’s complaint seeks more than $2 million in consumer restitution and fines — approximately $770,00 in restitution and $1.7 million in fines. It also seeking revocation of the dealer group’s three DCA secondhand auto dealer licenses (Major World Chevrolet, Major World Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, and Major Kia of Long Island) and the creation of a trust fund for any unidentified consumer who were allegedly harmed.
The DCA, which licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing and workplace laws, claims that its investigation to date covers 30 consumers — a fraction of the number of people it believes were harmed by Major World.
According to the agency, the dealerships allegedly lured consumers, particularly those with limited English proficiency, with promises of great deals on used cars and financing, regardless of their credit standing, income, and debt-to-income ratios. The DCA alleges that Major World’s dealerships would then falsely inflate consumer incomes, the nature of their employment and monthly rent obligations on credit apps to make buyers and their deals more attractive to finance companies. These same consumers were then left with overprices and sometimes defective cars, as well as high interest loans they could not afford, the DCA charges.
“Our city’s working families, who often struggle to make ends meet, rely on their cars to accomplish life’s most basic tasks, like going to work or going to school,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “It is outrageous that Major World, which claims to treat its customers like family, traps these hardworking New Yorkers into loans they can’t afford. Major has also been marketing aggressively to attract immigrant customers and their deceptive and predatory acts are as much an affront on immigrant communities as the deplorable polices we are seeing from the new federal government.”
The DCA charges that Major World used deceptive advertising to lure vulnerable customers, inflated the price of vehicles with nonexistent accessories, falsified credit applications, and failed to disclose finance terms. The agency also charged that the dealer group negotiated deals in Spanish but failed to provide contracts in that language. It also questioned the safety of the vehicles the group sold.
The DCA, which currently licenses 775 used-vehicle dealerships citywide and has received more than 5,500 complaints about dealerships since mid-2013, said it has received 114 complaints about Major World since 2014. According to the agency, the DC has secured nearly $913,000 in consumer restitution and assessed $1.6 million in fines against used-car dealerships over the past three years.