BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Consumers should not be charged any dealer fees when buying out a car lease. That has been the focus of two recent Local 10 News investigations.
Despite a federal law in place and consumers trying to fight back, complaints continue to come in. State lawmakers said the practice has to stop.
“I would like to see the consumer not get screwed,” said state Rep. Dan Daley, of District 97.
The practice continues. Attorney Joshua Feygin is representing some of the victims in a demand for arbitration against 25 different dealerships.
“It is mind-boggling how much dealerships disregard what they are allowed to do and what the law requires. Almost every consumer that has reached out to me has a claim,” Feygin said.
There is federal law, the Consumer Leasing Act, that states all fees charged on the back end must be disclosed in the contract at the beginning, according to Feygin.
Some consumers challenged past fees paid and a few dealers have made refunds.
Adonai Dasilva said there were $2,000 in fees to out his Kia lease even though his contract states there were zero fees.
Bob Palumbo tried to fight $900 in dealer fees to buy out the lease on his Ford Ranger and was told there were no exceptions.
Stefano D’aniello was hit with $2500 in dealer fees to buy out the lease on his Lexus.
The Coral Springs Auto Mall charges customers a $449 electronic filing fee. The Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t change that.
The owner of Earl Stewart Toyota in northern Palm Beach County said it costs him $10. Stewart had been a dealer since 1968. He doesn’t charge any fees.
“I think there are different state agencies that are passing the buck to each other and not getting to the bottom of how we solve an issue like this.”
Sen. Lauren Book was vice-chairman of regulated industries last year.
“I think what you have uncovered and what we are seeing through your reporting is that the system that is in place isn’t working.”
There are some dealerships that charge these fees some that don’t.
“If we have to craft policy to make sure that is happening then we do that,” Book said.
State Rep. Dan Daley said the first time he can actually file legislation on this would be in March.
A spokesperson for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said 40 complaints relating to lease buyouts have been received. They are investigating to see if they fall under deceptive and unfair trade practices.
Those complaints have also been referred to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles which licenses auto dealerships.
“These guys sold me my car. At one point they are smiling at me, now they are shutting the door. I feel very disrespected by them. — very very disrespected,” Dasilva said.
The Florida Automobile Dealers Association represents over 1,000 dealerships statewide and provides legislative representation as well. Local 10 News reached out for comment on this issue, and so far we have not heard back.
Read full statement from Florida Attorney’s Office:
“The terms of a lease buyout are typically determined by the individual lease contract. Car manufacturers may also provide some oversight of leasing terms of their dealers. However, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has enforcement authority, under Regulation M and the federal Consumer Leasing Act, and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation has regulatory authority, under the Florida Motor Vehicle Retail Sales Finance Act.
“Our Consumer Protection Division has civil enforcement authority over violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Our office was able to locate approximately 40 complaints this year relating to lease buyouts. All of these complaints have been referred to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the state agency that licenses auto dealerships. Our Consumer Protection Division is also currently reviewing these complaints for a possible pattern or practice violating FDUTPA.
“If a consumer is suspicious of a scam, they can report it to our office by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at MyFloridaLegal.com.”
Read full statement from Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles:
“The department does not have jurisdiction over leasing companies that are assigned a contract. While the dealer is facilitating the end transaction, the remedy for the consumer is ultimately in the arbitration clause, if not informally through contacting the leasing company. Chapter 320, F.S., does not list a disciplinary violation for a dealer imposing an accurately disclosed fee to facilitate the sale of the vehicle at the end of a lease.
“We appreciate you bringing these cases to our attention, and it is certainly concerning to see the issues that these consumers are facing while trying to navigate the process of buying out their lease. While the department is limited to what we can do provided by law in terms of regulation, we are committed to helping consumers know what to look for, what to ask, and what rights they have when it comes to buying a vehicle in Florida. Our website has a great deal of information for consumers, found here. Consumers looking to purchase their vehicle at the end of the lease may also be well served to contact multiple dealerships to determine which one charges the lowest fees.
“We encourage consumers experiencing issues with a licensed dealer to file a complaint with the department. If the department receives a complaint regarding a dealer, it will work to review the complaint and, if any violations are found, work to gain voluntary compliance with the dealership to resolve the issue for the customer and provide the customer all possible resources. Additionally, if the department receives a complaint for which it does not have statutory authority, complaints are forwarded to other appropriate departments. Complaint forms can be found here on our website.
“Lastly, the Florida Attorney General’s Office has some helpful information for consumers looking to lease a vehicle on their website.”