NYC dealership must provide documents for non-English speakers

Paragon is prohibited from negotiating any terms of a sale or a lease with a consumer in a language other than English without providing a translation of certain material documents in the language being used before the documents are signed. Photo credit: TOM WOROBEC

At the direction of the New York attorney general, New York City dealership Paragon Honda and its sibling stores must begin providing translations of sales documents to customers who negotiate their vehicle purchases in languages other than English.

The translation provision is part of Paragon’s broader settlement with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over the alleged unlawful sale of credit-repair and identity-theft prevention products from vendor Credit Forget It. Schneiderman announced the settlement last week.

Paragon also must start explicitly itemizing any after-sale product or service, such as tire protection, purchased by the consumer on the sales or lease contracts. Paragon violated several laws by not doing so, the attorney general’s office said.

No riders

A Paragon representative said the company used riders that itemized the additional products purchased because the sales and lease forms from many lenders didn’t have enough room to properly list those products. The lenders may now change the forms to provide more room for properly itemizing, the Paragon representative said.

Riders aren’t good enough, the attorney general’s office concluded.

In some cases, the Paragon riders failed to include the price of each product purchased, the attorney general’s office said, and some consumers said they never received a copy of the rider and were unaware of its contents or that they had signed it. In other cases, Paragon lumped the sale of several products together as if they were one item on the sales or lease contract, describing them as “additional purchase total.”

Beyond Spanish

Providing translations is not something dealerships have generally done. But New York City law requires that when the terms of an installment agreement are negotiated in Spanish, the seller must provide documents translated in Spanish, the attorney general’s office said. That wasn’t happening at the Paragon dealerships, where many customers do not speak or understand English.

It’s an issue that goes beyond Spanish-speaking customers.

In a press release, Paragon alluded to the diverse nature of its customer base, saying it has employees from 24 countries who speak approximately 22 languages. In addition to Spanish, Paragon said it also would provide the translations in Chinese and Korean as part of the settlement.

The attorney general’s office says Paragon is prohibited from negotiating any terms of a sale or a lease with a consumer in a language other than English without providing a translation of certain material documents in the language being used before the documents are signed.

Paragon is looking into posting the translations on its websites and in its showrooms.

“Anything that assists our customers and aids them in making a decision -- I’m in favor of it,” Brian Benstock, general manager of Paragon Honda and Paragon Acura, told Automotive News.

Disclaimer

The translations will carry a disclaimer that they’re being provided only for guidance and that the English-language documents are the only enforceable documents. That’s because lender contracts are third-party documents, and those third-party lenders are entitled to control any translation process or document that could be considered enforceable, a Paragon lawyer said.

Going forward, though, lenders doing business with Paragon or other New York City dealerships could consider providing their own translations. The attorney general’s office continues to investigate dozens of other dealerships for selling Credit Forget It products, and the translation concern is now on its radar screen.

America Honda Finance Corp. declined to comment on questions related to the translation of forms specific to the New York investigation.

Paragon has until mid-September to ready the translations. It can seek an extra 60 days beyond that, the attorney general’s office agreed, to resolve any issues affecting its ability to provide the translations, including any issues arising with third-party finance or leasing companies.

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@autonews.com

25

Shares

ATTENTION COMMENTERS: Over the last few months, Automotive News has monitored a significant increase in the number of personal attacks and abusive comments on our site. We encourage our readers to voice their opinions and argue their points. We expect disagreement. We do not expect our readers to turn on each other. We will be aggressively deleting all comments that personally attack another poster, or an article author, even if the comment is otherwise a well-argued observation. If we see repeated behavior, we will ban the commenter. Please help us maintain a civil level of discourse.

Newsletters