Major World, a car dealer with three locations in Long Island City, may have to cough up millions of dollars for allegedly inflating prices, falsifying consumer credit applications and deceptively targeting low-income and immigrant communities.
The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is seeking more than $2 million in consumer restitution and fines from the dealer’s three locations at 43-40 Northern Blvd., 50-30 Northern Blvd. and 44-11 Northern Blvd. DCA will present their findings at the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and will also ask for licenses to be revoked and for the creation of a trust fund for unidentified customers who have been harmed.
According to DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas, the dealerships have a history of luring unsuspecting consumers who have limited English proficiency and promising them great deals regardless of credit history, income or income-to-debt ratios.
The DCA charged that Major World employees regularly submitted false information on credit applications including the nature of a customers employment, income levels and monthly rent obligations. In one falsified application, Major World turned the customer from a grocery store manager to a grocery store owner, quadrupled his salary and reduced his rent by 75 percent.
In another example, Major World more than tripled the customer’s income from under $20,000 to $63,000, and reported that she was paying $400 in rent when her rent was about $1,100.
In other instances, the DCA indicated that Major World’s falsified information contradicted a customer’s pay stubs and bank statements, which resulted in customers receiving high-interest loans that they would not have otherwise qualified for or been able to afford.
Major World’s advertising also targeted Spanish-speaking customers and people with lower income or poor credit. The company used phrases like “Buenos, Bonitos, Baratos” (Good, Pretty, and Cheap) and slogans like “No credit is no problem” and “We design solutions for bad credit car buyers every day.”
The DCA further charged that employees also falsely inflated the value of cars by wrongly claiming vehicles had features like aluminum/alloy wheels, a Bose premium stereo or rear entertainment system. The company would also add service repair contracts without the customer’s knowledge, which added thousands of dollars to the bill.
DCA also argues that the company sold “dangerously defective vehicles” that have broken down shortly after being sold and customers have spent hundreds our thousands of dollars repairing them. In some instances, Major World allegedly refused to address the unsafe conditions and make repairs.
Though employees usually negotiate the transactions in Spanish, documents are in English and employees sometimes actively conceal interest rates and finance charges by folding over pages before customers sign.
“Buying that car is usually one of the largest purchases a family makes,” Salas said. “It is outrageous that Major World, who claims to treat its customers like family, traps these hardworking New Yorkers into loans they can’t afford. Major World has also been marketing aggressively to attract immigrant customers and their deceptive and predatory acts are as much an affront on immigrant communities as the deplorable policies we are seeing from the new federal government.”
QNS reached out to Major World for comment and is awaiting a response.
Auto loan debt in American households has increased by 9 percent from 2015 to 2016 and 13 percent since 2005, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. At the end of 2016, Americans had nearly $1.2 trillion in outstanding auto loan debt.
DCA currently licenses 775 used car dealerships citywide, and it has received more than 5,500 complaints about the industry since mid-2013, including more than 1,050 since July 2016. DCA has received 114 complaints about Major World since 2014.
DCA encourages customers who feel they may have been lied to by Major World to contact the agency by calling 311 or by filing a complaint at nyc.gov/dca.