Philadelphia Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Blog

A default may trigger repossession

Many Pennsylvania residents may be surprised to learn that repossession of property is entirely legal under certain conditions. Even if the debtor faces financial difficulties, the creditor can assert its rights to payment. This could lead to a vehicle or another piece of property that hasn't been paid for being lawfully taken.

The right to repossession is triggered when a debtor becomes delinquent on a regularly scheduled payment. To be enforceable, a written security contract (payment agreement) must be signed by the debtor. It identifies the specific property that is the collateral for the debt. Once there is a delinquency, the creditor typically contacts a third party repossession agent to capture the property. Afterward, the property is usually sold to repay the debt and cover legal costs and fees.

Judge says expert testimony not needed in lemon law case

Car buyers in Pennsylvania may pursue remedies under the state's lemon law if their vehicle develops a problem during the first year of ownership or 12,000 miles that dealers are unable to repair. The issue must affect the vehicle's value or operation, and dealers are given three opportunities to remedy the problem. Automobile manufacturers often mount vigorous defenses in these cases and may deny that a problem exists when a consumer's claims are not backed up by expert testimony. However, an appeals judge in Massachusetts recently said that a stack of repair bills was evidence enough.

The case involves a consumer who purchased a Ford F-150 pickup truck in 2010 that developed problems after covering just 1,461 miles. Ford's attorneys argued successfully in Superior Court that the case should be dismissed because the consumer did not provide proof from a recognized automotive expert that the pickup truck's issues significantly impaired its safety or market value. They also argued that a supercharger fitted to the vehicle was an unauthorized repair that absolved them of any further liability.

What is Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law?

It’s every driver’s worst nightmare. You finally replaced your aging vehicle with something much nicer, a new car. Yet, three months later, you end up having to bring it in for a transmission problem. And even though the dealer fixes it, a couple weeks later, you are having transmission problems again.

What are you supposed to do now?

Suing used car dealerships

People in Pennsylvania who purchased a used vehicle may have legal recourse if the vehicle is not in the condition the dealership said it was. However, there are certain factors that can affect what steps the buyers can take to remedy the situation, whom they can sue and whether pursuing legal action is the wisest option.

The laws regarding dealer obligations and warranties vary from state to state. Whether the seller was an individual or dealership is also a factor. These kinds of details are important when it comes to meaningfully assessing claims and can make a significant impact in a legal case.

Car dealership in legal trouble for failing to follow up

"I thought, OK, I trade in the car, I get a new car, they pay off the lien and that's the end of it." This dealership customer became disappointed, disillusioned and frustrated when he realized that buying a car at a name-brand dealership doesn’t always work as it should.

When he received repeated phone calls from the bank holding his old auto loan, the man realized the dealership that sold him his new car had never paid off the car he had traded in. From the banks’ point of view, he now owned two cars and he watched his credit score plummet by 140 points before he knew what was happening.

Obtaining service after a dealer closes

It is not uncommon for vehicle owners in Pennsylvania to spend time at a dealership for routine service or repairs. However, taking a vehicle for service got much harder for Volvo owners in Bakersfield, California. The company decided to shut down the dealership thereafter the owners of the franchise refused to spend millions of dollars on a new facility. When the dealership where a person buys a car goes out of business, that individual has several options.

The first option is to visit another dealership to get service or have work done that is covered by a warranty. Another option is to visit any professional who is qualified to perform service on a given make and model of vehicle. However, Volvo says that anyone who goes to an independent service station would need to pay the cost of the repair and then seek reimbursement from the company.

What to do before buying a used car

It typically costs thousands of dollars to buy a used car from a dealer or private party in Pennsylvania. Therefore, it is important for a buyer to know how to evaluate a vehicle in an effort to protect his or her investment. Ideally, an individual will research a vehicle to learn more about any open recalls, how much it's worth and how much it could cost to maintain.

As part of the research process, people should ask the seller for any maintenance records he or she may have. This will make it easier to determine if the vehicle has any recurring issues that may crop up in the future. A used vehicle history report can also provide more information as to whether a vehicle has experienced significant damage in the past. It is also a good idea to have a car inspected by a mechanic prior to making a purchasing decision.

Be cautious of signs of damage to new cars

Buying a new car is exciting. You might spend hours doing research on a vehicle’s features, reliability, customizable options and more. When the day finally arrives, you happily drive your car out of the dealership parking lot and back to your Philadelphia home.

However, you may be shocked to discover damage to your brand new vehicle either immediately or a few days later. Even brand new vehicles are not exempt from suffering damage, with some issues occurring even before a driver gets behind the wheel.

Rolling back an odometer is against the law

When buying a vehicle in Pennsylvania or any other state, it is important to verify that the figure on the odometer is correct. This is because some may engage in a process called clocking, which means that they fraudulently lower the number on the odometer. Individuals may be able to do a VIN check to determine if their desired vehicle has been tampered with.

Carfax and a variety of other companies offer this service for a fee of up to $39. Those who are looking to sell a vehicle should know that intentionally tampering with an odometer is a federal offense. Sellers are legally required to tell a buyer if the number on the odometer is not correct. Individuals who are victims of fraud or believe that they have been taken advantage of can contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or watchdog groups in their state.

When a dealer sells a recalled used car

People may not know that some Pennsylvania car dealers might not inform them if there is a recall for a used vehicle they are selling. This was the case for one man whose Ford F-150 had a faulty cruise control switch. This resulted in the truck catching on fire while sitting in his driveway, igniting the garage door and his house.

The man said he would not have purchased the vehicle if he had known about the recall, but the dealer did not tell him. According to a representative with the Center for Auto Safety, it should not be legal for dealers to sell recalled vehicles, just as retailers are not permitted to sell recalled food or other products.

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