Report: Car Dealerships Still Charging Unlawful Fees In Violation Of FDUTPA (Buying Out Car Leases)
According to a report from Local News 10, too many auto dealerships in our state continue to violate the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) by charging unlawful fees. The law is clear: Consumers in Florida should not be charged any “dealer fees” when buying out car leases. In this blog post, our Miami deceptive & unfair trade practices lawyer provides a more detailed overview of the report and the guidance from Florida regulators.
Local News 10 Report: Auto Dealers Charging Illegal Fees
The investigation from Local News 10 was centered on auto dealerships in Broward County. It is a follow-up to regulatory guidance issued by the Florida Attorney General that clarified that auto dealers cannot charge consumers fees when they buy out leases. According to the report, several consumers in Broward County were charged between $900 and $2,500 in fees by their auto dealer when they bought out the lease on their car.
These fees—which are barred by federal law—are generally presented to consumers in a deceptive manner. For example, they may be labeled as a “filing fee” or a “registration fee”, but the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not charge any such processing fees for lease buyouts.
Regulatory Guidance: No Undisclosed Dealer Fees for Consumers Who Buy Out Leases
The Florida Attorney General has issued clear regulatory guidance to auto dealerships in the state on this matter. As noted in the guidance, a federal law called the Consumer Leasing Act holds that all fees must be clearly and properly disclosed at the beginning of a contract. There are also additional regulations for lease buyouts under the Florida Motor Vehicle Retail Sales Finance Act.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody confirmed that her office is investigating several dozen complaints on lease buyout fees. She emphasizes that dealerships are not authorized to charge fees that were not disclosed at the beginning of a contract. Additionally, dealerships cannot charge deceptive fees that materially mislead a consumer.
Your Rights as a Consumer Under the FDUTPA
In Florida, consumers are protected under the FDUTPA. The law allows individuals (and businesses) to hold a company legally liable for damages caused by a material misrepresentation, material omission, or other unjust commercial practice. As the law contains a private right of action, a consumer can file an FDUTPA claim directly against a business. According to the report from Local News 10, the Florida Attorney General is currently actively investigating and reviewing lease buyout fees to determine if this practice constitutes a violation of the FDUTPA.
Schedule a Confidential Case Review With a South Florida FDUTPA Attorney
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida consumer protection lawyers have deep experience handling FDUTPA claims. If your rights were violated by an auto dealership, we can help you determine the best course of action. Call us now for a confidential initial consultation. From our law offices in Miami, West Palm Beach, and Wellington, we handle FDUTPA claims throughout South Florida.