NEWARK, NJ – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has obtained a $1.8 million settlement -- plus consumer restitution -- from eight auto dealerships and their owners, Carmelo Giuffre of Brooklyn, and Ignazio Guiffre of Colts Neck.
The settlement resolves a state investigation into alleged deceptive sales tactics such as failing to disclose existing mechanical defects or past damage to used cars, charging for supplemental warranties and other costly “after-sale items” without customers’ consent, and failing to honor the negotiated or advertised prices for vehicles.
The settlement includes eight dealerships altogether, including four located along Route 22:
- Route 22 Toyota
- Route 22 Honda
- Route 22 Nissan
- Route 22 Kia
All eight dealerships are owned by Carmelo and Ignazio Giuffre.
“This settlement is a tremendous success for the consumers who were affected by the alleged deceptive sales tactics,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “The consequences, including a civil penalty of $1.8 million, are particularly appropriate in light of the fact that the owners of these dealerships violated an earlier settlement in which they had promised not to engage in such practices.”
The state alleged that actions taken by the dealerships directly violated a prior settlement that Carmelo and Ignazio Giuffre, and certain of the dealerships, reached with the state in 1999, after the state received very similar consumer complaints about deceptive practices by the dealerships. In addition to the bait-and-switch tactics and add-on sales without consent, consumers alleged that the dealerships:
- failed to refund deposits in a timely manner after consumers either canceled the sales or were denied financing;
- advertised cars without including required information such as vehicle identification numbers (VIN), preventing consumers from being able to check the vehicle’s history of damage and use;
- failed to provide consumers with motor vehicle titles and registrations in a timely manner.
“Buying a new or used vehicle can be an intimidating process, especially for consumers who lack the ability to independently learn about a used car’s condition or history before making a decision,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “Our state laws protect all consumers by ensuring they have access to all relevant information when buying a motor vehicle. This settlement is intended to ensure that these dealerships will not again violate our laws or deceive potential customers.”
In February 1999, Carmelo and Ignazio Giuffre, as well as Route 22 Toyota, Route 22 Honda, and Route 22 Nissan entered into a settlement in which the defendants agreed to pay $450,000, including $250,000 as a compensatory fund for consumers, resulting from similar complaints by consumers.
The new settlement, announced today, requires a payment of $1.8 million which includes $1,733,059 in civil penalties and $66,941 to reimburse the State’s investigative costs and attorneys’ fees. Additionally, the defendants must work to resolve the complaints of 45 consumers who documented their allegations with the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or (973) 504-6200.