MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – There has been an ongoing investigation by Local 10 News into car dealerships hitting customers with unexpected fees when they try to buy out their current lease.
Several lawsuits have been filed since our reporting began, and some South Florida dealerships have settled though there is still a class action lawsuit suit that is pending.
Attorneys say charging those undisclosed fees is illegal, but in many cases that practice continues.
“I wanted to buy my lease out and I figured it would be an easy thing to do,” Dr. Barry Resnick told Local 10 News’ Jeff Weinsier.
Unfortunately, Resnick was wrong.
Despite the fact his purchase price at the end of the lease was all spelled in a contract when he originally leased a 2019 Buick Encore three years ago, Lehman Buick wanted to charge him a $250 inspection fee and a $999 dealer fee,
“I said why are you giving me all these fees? ‘Well this is the way we have to it, the finance company wants us to do that,’” Resnick explained.
He referenced Local 10 News’ prior stories were attorneys say under the Consumer Leasing Act of 1976 dealerships can’t charge fees not disclosed in the original lease.
“And that’s when they stopped talking to me,” Resnick said, adding that every Buick dealership he called had similar fees. “Up until Vera.”
Since Local 10 News’ first stories on this issue hit the air back in March, consumers have been taking legal action.
According to federal court records, Midway Ford charged customer Joel Messa over $2,200 in fees to buy out the lease on his 2018 Mustang; a $1,731 pre-delivery service charge and a $495 electronic registration filing fee, neither of which were in his original lease.
Messa sued Midway Ford and the dealership settled.
Records also show that Coral Springs Kia charged customer Paul Goss a $995 pre-delivery service charge and $499 electronic registration filing fee when he bought out his 2018 Kia Optima.
Goss sued Coral Springs Key and they also settled.
South Dade Toyota, not only charged Abdiel Mesa $2,212 more than the agreed buyout value in the contract of his 2018 Toyota 4Runner, but they also hit him with another $1,494 in undisclosed fees. That’s an increase of $3,706. Southeast Toyota Finance, an operating division of World Omni Finance settled the case.
Palmetto 57 Nissan settled a case with Madelyn Delanuez in January after she was overcharged a $799 pre-delivery service charge, a $398.75 electronic registration filing fee and then another $1,200 in fees.
As a part of their settlements, the customers cannot speak to anyone about the specifics of their cases.
At the moment, federal lawsuits are pending against Deerfield Automotive LLC, operating as King Hyundai and Doral Lincoln for charging undisclosed fees to customers.
A source tells Local 10 News several cases against Gunther Automotive have been settled through arbitration. Those terms are also confidential
According to court records, in a final judgement, Sheehan Buick GMC has been ordered to pay a former customer $7,000 in damages after charging that customer $1,389 in undisclosed fees in a lease buyout.
According to the original suit filed, the fees violated the Federal Consumer Leasing Act.
Additionally, a class action suit has been filed against Hyundai Capital America, which also does business as Genesis Finance, over undisclosed fees, but a federal judge has yet to certify the suit as a class action.
Due to lack of inventory on the lot and high prices, more customers than ever are buying their current leases out.
In Florida, if you sell three or more vehicles a year, you need a dealer’s license.
The banks and financial institutions we make payments to monthly will send customers to the dealer to facilitate the buyouts and the end of the lease.
But dealers make no money simply facilitating the transactions, so many create the fees.
It’s a flawed system and uneducated consumers wind up getting screwed.
No one at any of the dealerships mentioned this story, nor their attorneys, would talk to Local 10 News on camera, or even comment.
As for Florida’s Attorney General, a spokesperson said Ashley Moody was not available to speak to Local 10 News about the issue.
Frankly, Local 10 couldn’t find anyone at the state level currently protecting consumers on the issue.