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Woodside car dealers hit with fines, suspension

JF Motors of Northern Blvd agrees to $375,000 settlement

Three used car dealerships in a one-mile span on Northern Boulevard in Woodside have been stripped of their license to operate for at least two years, and are facing civil penalties for over 10,000 violations of the City’s Consumer Protection Law.

The City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection announced a $375,000 settlement with the Queens-based dealerships, which includes $225,000 in total restitution for customers and payment towards the city of $150,000 in civil penalties.

All three dealershipsAutomania (4309 Northern Blvd.), Luxury Automotive Club (5511 Northern Blvd.) and World Auto (6107 Northern Blvd.), are run by JF Motors and are ordered to surrender their licenses, which prevents them from operating a used car dealership for at least two years.

DCWP charged the dealerships with deceptive advertising and falsely marketing some of their cars as “Certified Pre-owned”. Despite often marketing their cars as “Certified Pre-owned” by the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, JF Motors did not conduct the required 125-point inspection, nor did they give buyers the promised 10-year/100,000 warranty or provide a vehicle history report, says DCWP.

JF Motors unlawful conduct includes the use of illegal contracts, the overcharging out-of-state buyers for bogus fees, and failing to provide documents to consumers in Spanish, even though the deal was negotiated in Spanish.

As part of the settlement, 16 consumers are getting restitution totaling $199,600, leaving just over $25,000 available for new complainants.

“When New Yorkers buy a used car, they expect to get a fair and honest deal,” DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga said. “With this settlement, we are delivering thousands of dollars in restitution for the victims of JF Motors and sending a clear message to the used car industry that DCWP will hold them accountable if they choose to deceive their customers.”

JF Motors could not be reached for comment, as their business phone number was recently disconnected.

The violations leveled against the dealerships go against some of the rules put in place by the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs in 2018, put in place to combat predatory sales and financing practices in the used car industry. Since June 2018, used car dealerships in New York City are required to provide consumers with a Consumer Bill of Rights, a financing disclosure form, where applicable, and a cancellation option.

The settlement was handled by Senior Staff Counsel Bradley McCormick, under the supervision of Associate General Counsel Adem Blumenkratz of the General Counsel Division, which is led by Acting General Counsel Michael Tiger.

Mayor Eric Adams applauded the work of DCWP for delivering the settlement six months after the agency filed cases against the Queens-based dealerships.

“Preying on New Yorkers looking to buy a used car is not only unacceptable, it’s illegal,” Mayor Adams said.

DCWP currently licenses 505 used car dealerships and has received over 5,638 complaints about the industry over the past five years. In the same time frame, the agency has conducted nearly 3,000 inspections, issuing more than 1,156 violations, with a majority of them for failure to post required signs, parking or storing cars on the sidewalk, and missing price disclosures. DCWP has secured over $1.8 million in consumer restitution and over $4.6 million in fines against used car dealerships in the past five years.

“Protecting New York City consumers from scams and fraud is one of our most important responsibilities in government,” Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “I commend the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection for holding these dealerships accountable for breaking the law and securing thousands in restitution for consumers.”

Temp program provides discount on city fines

A three-month program administered by the Department of Finance (DOF) will allow businesses that have been hit with city fines to apply for up to a 75 percent reduction in unpaid judgments.
The FAIRER (Fine and Interest Reduction Enabling Recovery) Program, authorized by Mayor Bill de Blasio, will enable New Yorkers with eligible Environmental Control Board (ECB) judgments to see their unpaid fines reduced by up to 75 percent.
ECB judgments can be issued by multiple city agencies like the departments of Sanitation, Buildings, and Fire. Violations can include dirty sidewalks, littering, failure to remove snow and ice, posters where they are not permitted, and failure to comply with the building code.
But as many businesses are trying to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program aims to bring much-needed relief.
“True to its name, the FAIRER Program offers a fair resolution for outstanding judgment debt that will aid ongoing recovery efforts,” said DOF Commissioner Sherif Soliman. “It is a chance to clear the slate and start fresh, and we hope many New Yorkers will take advantage of the program.”
According to a November 2020 DOF report, the pandemic had a “large adverse effect” on ECB collections last year. Enforcement of debt collection was halted in the early months of the pandemic, and as a result DOF saw a 15.7 percent decrease in collections from the previous year.
Depending on when violations went into judgment and whether the respondent attended a hearing held by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, business owners can save up to 75 percent on the base fine and interest.
If there is no default penalty and the judgment was entered before March 7, 2020, customers can receive a 25 percent reduction on the base fine and interest.
If there is no default penalty and the judgment was entered on or after March 7, 2020, and prior to June 23, 2021, a 75 percent reduction is possible.
If the judgment contains a default penalty for not attending a hearing, the default penalty and interest can be forgiven.
“New York City was hit hard by the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Assemblymember David Weprin in a statement. “The FAIRER Program will ease some of the financial burden on New Yorkers by reducing the cost of their Environmental Control Board fines.”
The FAIRER program runs from September 20 through December 20. To participate in the program, eligible reduced ECB judgments must be paid in full no later than December 20.

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