Dealer won't refund my deposit

March 15, 2016 15:21 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I paid a car dealer $300 as a deposit to confirm that I was interested in buying a particular car. He assured me that the car had a clean title and had not been in any accidents. He also assured me that he would return my deposit if I found any problems with the car. I got the VIN number from him and found out from CARFAX that the car had been in an accident.  I showed the CARFAX report to the dealer and asked him for my deposit back, but he refused to return it. What can I do?

Consumer Ed says:  

While many consumers are under the impression that there is a law which entitles them to a refund for a car deposit if they choose not to buy the car, this is not the case.  Usually, whether a deposit is refundable or non-refundable depends on what's written in a contract, on a receipt, or posted at the dealership.  But if there’s nothing that states otherwise, or if you agreed with the dealer that the funds would be returned in the event that the car had previously been in an accident, then the dealer should be required to refund the money.

In this case, if you believe that the dealer has no right to keep your deposit, you have several options.  The first thing you should do is write a letter to the dealer requesting that your money be returned. Send the letter via “Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested,” and pay the small additional fee to obtain proof of delivery. You should also submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), and ask their mediation department to contact the dealer to attempt to get your deposit back.  You can also submit a complaint to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at www.consumer.ga.gov, or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123 (outside metro Atlanta).  If you used a credit card to pay the deposit, you should also consider disputing the charge with your credit card company.  Even if you take this route, the assistance of the Better Business Bureau and the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit described above may still be helpful.  

If none of the above options result in the return of your deposit, you may want to consult with an attorney who can help you explore other legal options you may have. 

To avoid such issues in the future, and to help you avoid doing business with companies that use deceptive tactics, make sure you select a reputable auto dealer before you begin shopping for a car. You can research dealerships through the Better Business Bureau’s website (www.bbb.org).  In addition, make sure that before you give a deposit to a dealer, you require that he or she create a written document stating the purpose of the payment, and under what circumstances, if any, you are entitled to a partial or full refund.  Finally, make certain that you read that document carefully and in its entirety before you sign it or hand over any money for a deposit. 


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Cement contractor took the money but won't do the job

February 23, 2016 15:27 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

Two months ago I paid a cement contractor to do a job for me.  The job has not been done and he does not take my calls anymore.  I was given excuses for why he couldn't start, until I requested a refund. What recourse do I have?

Consumer Ed says:  

The first thing you need to do is look at the agreement that you entered into with your contractor; its terms should spell out specified start and completion dates, cancellations, refunds, and any other provisions addressing the rights and obligations of the parties. However, even if you had only a verbal agreement, you likely still have recourse against the contractor.  

If the contractor has or is required to have a state license under Georgia law, you may be able to prompt his cooperation by reporting him to the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors, a part of the Georgia Secretary of State.  While not all construction occupations require a state contractor’s license, a great number of activities that require building permits do.  Notably, though, the state allows licensure exemptions for a wide range of specialty contractors, like roofers, painters, brick masons, and even those who focus on concrete work.  A complete list of specialty contractor services may be found with the Secretary of State at www.sos.ga.gov/plb or the Homebuilders Association of Georgia at www.hbag.org.  

Further, and perhaps more importantly, most local county or city jurisdictions require all contractors – whether state licensed or not – to have a local license, such as a business license required for tax purposes. So, some specialty contractors may be required to hold a local license. 

Also, local ordinances may require a contractor to obtain a building permit in the process of performing such work. You can check with your county or city government to make sure your contractor has the proper local licensing and you can report him to the proper authority if he is operating without the required state or local license.

If you cannot resolve the problem directly with the contractor, there are several options available to you.   If you paid with a credit card, you may be able to dispute the charge with your credit card provider.  You can also contact the Better Business Bureau to see if they will help mediate a solution between you and the contractor.  

Additionally, you may want to consult a private attorney to determine the extent of legal options available to you.  To find a lawyer in your area, contact your local bar association.  A list of the bar associations in Georgia can be found on the State Bar of Georgia’s website: www.gabar.org.  

Finally, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov, or to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at www.consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600.


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Can car dealer back out of deal once contract has been signed?

January 21, 2016 13:11 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

Yesterday afternoon I purchased a new car and was able to get a great deal.  However, today I received a voicemail from the dealer, asking me to come back in to discuss the deal.  From his tone, I assumed they didn't make any money on the deal.  Regardless, the contract was signed and accepted.  I took delivery of the vehicle and paid them on the spot, with a check from my bank. Can the dealership back out of this deal or demand more money?

Consumer Ed says:  

This sounds like a case of “seller’s remorse.” Generally speaking, there is no “cooling off period” – i.e., a legal right to cancel a vehicle purchase contract for either the buyer or the seller. Once all of the requirements for completion of the transaction are satisfied and you have signed the necessary paperwork, you have bought the vehicle. However, it is important that you read all of your vehicle purchase documents carefully. Although unlikely, if the dealership retained the right to back out of the contract, if the contract provides a basis for modifying certain terms later on, or if some event or act must occur in order to finalize the deal, the wording of the contract should include those provisions.  If such provisions are not contained in your contract, it would appear that your transaction is complete, and therefore the seller should not be able to change the terms of the agreement once it has been signed.  If the seller tries to change the terms, you need to consult with an attorney before agreeing or taking any action.


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