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Auto FraudRevolutionary: Overview of the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights

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As the cornerstone of our legal system, the United States Constitution leads off with 10 groundbreaking provisions that are referred to as the Bill of Rights. Legal protections such as the right to free speech and the prohibition of illegal searches rings loud in the American judicial system.

California adopted the principle of our Constitutional Bill of Rights in 2006 by passing several laws that comprise the state’s Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights.

The California version of the Bill of Rights changed the way car dealerships sell vehicles. Long gone are the days when auto dealers had the legal green light to scam, cheat, and defraud car buyers.

With a few modifications since 2006, the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights covers all motor vehicles purchased in the state for family and personal use. Some provisions written into the law apply exclusively to used cars, while other provisions pertain to both new and used cars. The long list of car buyer rights does not cover car sales between individuals, nor does it cover motorcycles and recreational vehicles.

Let’s review the most prominent sections of the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights.

Protections Against Used Car Fraud

Under the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, you have the right to purchase a used car that comes with a return option within 48 hours, granted the used vehicle purchased costs less than $40,000. The return option kicks in for one or more of the following reasons.

  • Car not inspected by your chosen technician
  • You bought the car “as is”
  • You drove the vehicle fewer than 250 miles
  • Car in the same condition as when you purchased it

Trade-in

Linked to the used car provision of the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights, the trade-in provision requires dealers to keep a trade-in onsite until the 48-hour return option expires. If the auto dealer sells a trade-in before the 48-hour expiration period, the dealership must compensate you for the fair market value of the sold trade-in car. The car dealership has 48 hours to return your trade-in after you bring back the used car that you bought.

Certified Vehicles

One of the most common scams pulled by car dealerships is to call a used car certified when in fact the vehicle does not qualify for the designation. The California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights makes it unlawful for an auto dealer to sell or advertise a used car as certified if the vehicle has not gone through a state-approved inspection. Dealerships must provide car buyers with a copy of the inspection report to complete a sales transaction that involves a certified used car.

Car Dealer Disclosures

One of the intents of the 2006 Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights was to improve the clarity of vehicle purchase agreements. Under California consumer protection law, an auto dealer must list the price of a vehicle without adding the cost of options and accessories. Prices for options and accessories

must follow the raw list price of a car in a vehicle purchase agreement. You have the right to receive the credit score obtained by an auto dealership that was used to make a vehicle financing decision. This right prevents car dealerships from charging more for auto loans because of an alleged poor credit score.

Prohibition of Interest Rate Increases

Some lenders and car dealers develop a cozy relationship that leads to a hidden fee in a sales contract that rewards a lender for bumping up the interest rate charged for a car loan. The California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights prohibits this practice by

making the profit-splitting practice a crime worthy of a substantial fine. Auto dealerships that advertise zero percent financing, but charge car buyers a higher rate than that also must pay a price for breaking the law.

How to Get Justice Under the California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights

Car buyers in California have several ways to use the Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights to get justice for auto fraud.

Contact one or more of the following organizations if you believe a car dealer has violated your consumer rights:

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS)

1303 J Street, Suite 270

Sacramento, CA 95814.

Consumer Action

415-777-9635 (San Francisco)

213-624-8327 (Los Angeles)

California Attorney General

800-952-5225

You can also contact a California consumer protection attorney to initiate a civil lawsuit against a car dealership that violated one or more of your California Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights.

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