BOSTON – A Connecticut automobile lender will provide $733,925 in debt relief and refunds to resolve allegations that it facilitated the sale of defective vehicles by certain Massachusetts used car dealerships, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
In the assurance of discontinuance, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Sensible Auto Lending LLC has agreed to provide relief for consumers who purchased vehicles at F&R Auto, which entered into a consent judgment with the AG’s Office over its deceptive sales practices, and three other Massachusetts dealerships.
“This settlement will give consumers victimized by these dealerships a clean slate by refunding them for faulty cars and repairing their credit,” said AG Healey. “Sensible Auto has also changed its business practices so that consumers are protected from fraud in the future.”
The AG’s investigation found that Sensible facilitated the dealerships’ sale of defective and inoperable vehicles by supplying the dealerships with financing, despite knowing of consumer complaints against the dealerships and of their high default and repossession rates.
The investigation also found that Sensible violated the Massachusetts Cost of Consumer Credit Disclosure Act by failing to account for the cost of certain insurance policies that consumers were required to purchase. These Vendor Single Interest (VSI) insurance policies are intended to protect lenders when a vehicle is damaged or unrecoverable, but Sensible used its VSI claims to recover for credit losses. This practice effectively caused the annual percentage rates on consumers’ loans to exceed the state statutory cap of 21 percent.
Under the terms of the settlement, Sensible will provide refunds to certain consumers, including those who purchased a vehicle from F&R Auto, complained of mechanical defects, and lost their vehicle to repossession. Sensible will also waive all outstanding deficiency obligations for the hundreds of consumers who purchased vehicles from F&R Auto and the three other dealerships and will repair these consumers’ credit with credit reporting agencies. Sensible will refund interest payments to consumers where the company misused VSI claims.
Sensible cooperated fully with the AG’s investigation and made substantial changes to its business practices. Sensible agreed to begin tracking consumer complaints, repossession rates, and delinquency rates of the dealerships with which it does business.
For tips or questions about the auto industry, consumers may call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400 or file a complaint with the office.
This matter was handled by Deputy Division Chief Shennan Kavanagh and Assistant Attorney General Samantha Shusterman of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, and Assistant Attorney General Lizabeth Marshall of the AG’s New Bedford regional office, with assistance from Assistant Attorney General Timothy Hoitink of the AG’s Insurance and Financial Services Division.