During National Consumer Protection Week (March 6-12), governor highlights DMV success pursuing customer refunds, recovering titles, ensuring completed repair work
Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced that more than $1.65 million in goods and services have been recovered for New Yorkers who received faulty or fraudulent service from auto dealers and repair shops. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles helped customers recover titles when dealerships closed abruptly, assisted people to get repairs or refunds, and in some cases, dealerships bought back vehicles to settle disputes.
"When bad actors try to take advantage of consumers, New York will fight back," Hochul said. "My administration is dedicated to protecting consumers from fraud, working closely with motorists who file complaints to make sure they get what they pay for. This money recouped by the DMV on behalf of consumers is a testament to our ongoing efforts to make our state a better, fairer place for all New Yorkers."
The Department of Motor Vehicles' office of vehicle safety investigates complaints from consumers who believe they were misled or wronged by a DMV-regulated business. In 2021, the agency was able to recoup refunds for 540 customers totaling more than $385,000. In other instances, DMV investigated complaints about the quality of the repair work done on customer's vehicles. DMV enabled those consumers to get a total of $78,000 of additional repair work completed at no additional charge to the customer.
In addition, some customers were sold cars by auto dealers who went out of business before issuing the vehicle titles, meaning the consumer was left with no proof of ownership but in many cases still on the hook for the car payments. DMV's offices of vehicle safety and title services worked together to recover vehicle titles worth more than $682,000 for those customers.
Since 2017, when the DMV began to track data on those recoveries, the department has helped 279 consumers gain clear title to their vehicles (worth more than $4.5 million).
A certificate of title for a vehicle is what establishes a person or business as the legal owner. It includes important information about the vehicle's history and the vehicle itself, including year, make and model. Without a title, a vehicle owner is unable to transfer ownership, remove a lien, or provide proof of ownership necessary to take out a loan on the vehicle or file an insurance claim.
In some cases where the customer filed a complaint about a vehicle purchase, dealers offered to buy the vehicle back during the course of the DMV investigation. The value of such repurchases in 2021 was more than $503,000.
DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder said, "We at DMV are very proud of the work our vehicle safety unit does on behalf of consumers. Anyone who believes they have been taken advantage of during a sales or repair experience should know they have an advocate to stand up for them to make sure they get what they pay for."
When customers make a complaint, DMV first discusses it with the customer and the business to try to resolve it amicably. About half of all complaints are settled directly. If the problem is not resolved, a DMV inspector investigates the complaint. If it is found that a dealer or shop violated laws and/or regulations, DMV can impose fines and suspend or revoke business registrations.
New Yorkers can learn about their rights when they bring their vehicles into a repair shop on DMV's “Know Your Rights in Auto Repair” page.
A press release said, “To be certain they are using a state-licensed repair shop or dealer that performs repair work, consumers should look for a green and white ‘Registered State of New York Motor Vehicle Repair Shop’ sign outside the shop, and a valid New York State Department of Motor Vehicles registration certificate inside. For a dealership, the sign will be red and white.”
Consumers can also verify that a repair shop, auto dealer or motor vehicle inspection station is properly registered on the “Find a DMV-Regulated Business” web page. For consumers as they prepare to buy, trade or sell a vehicle, the DMV also offers advice on its “Let the Buyer Be Aware” page.