A New York City dealership accused of deceptive practices toward non-English-speaking customers agreed to pay more than $423,000 in restitution and penalties last week as part of a settlement with the state's attorney general.
The office of New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood received dozens of complaints about Bay Ridge Honda, of Brooklyn, regarding unwanted charges and fraudulent sales tactics toward non-English-speaking Chinese customers, according to a statement. Many of the complaints were from customers who speak Mandarin and Cantonese, dialects of Chinese, whose sale or lease contracts were negotiated in Chinese but whose contracts were written in English.
The contracts contained terms and aftermarket items that were not agreed upon, such as supplemental service contracts, guaranteed asset protection policies or special protections for tires, fabric, glass or paint, according to the complaints. Such products added thousands of dollars to the price of vehicles. Additionally, some customers reported that their loan terms were stretched beyond what was agreed upon at the dealership.
Customers said they discovered added products and term alterations only when their bills arrived.
The dealership also dishonestly promised to refinance customers' loans, the statement said. For instance, when consumers complained about being overcharged or paying for unwanted aftermarket items, the dealership staff would promise to refinance them at a lower rate in a few months but did not follow through.
Bay Ridge Honda has agreed to refund $269,525 dispersed among 47 customers and pay $153,648 in penalties, fees and costs to the state.
About 4.3 million New York residents are limited in their ability to read, speak, write or understand English, the statement said, citing U.S. census data. In the New York City metro area, close to 200 languages are spoken, and more than a third of residents speak a language other than English at home, the statement said.