FBPA penalties are serious.
In this video, we talk about the penalties for a violation of the FBPA. If you think “the car isn’t worth that much, they can’t possibly get that much,” you may very well be wrong.
Below is a transcript of the video:
Let’s talk about penalties under the Fair Business Practices Act because they’re somewhat different, whether it is a consumer complaint of a civil lawsuit brought by a customer or a State investigation. The State will penalize or attempt to penalize a dealer for each violation. Here is an example:
Let’s say the dealer is overcharging ETR fees. They’re charging an amount that’s not reasonable. The State could levy a fine or assess a fine for every violation. Let’s say it’s 500 violations over the course of a year The state could levy 500 fines, one for each.
It’s a different sort of analysis for the consumer. It’s not about the harm to the general public, it’s about the harm to that consumer. So what was the harm of the dealer’s misrepresentation, or the dealer’s concealment of information of the dealer’s unfair practice to that consumer?
That’s an analysis that’s case by case and that’s where you get into damage analysis in any lawsuit or any demand, to actually analyze what are the damages for the dealer’s act? Now, what’s interesting about the Fair Business Practices Act that’s different than a lot of statutes is it includes an amount for treble damages in the event of an intentional act. If it is found that the dealer intentionally attempted to harm the consumer through its acts, then the dealer could be liable for something called treble damages. “Treble” is not a word you use often, not a word I would expect most dealers to know what it means, but it’s one of these legal words. Treble really means triple. So in the event, there’s a $10 damage if it’s trebled, it’s $30 in damage.
This is where the Fair Business Practices Act becomes a real thorn in the side for a lot of dealers. A dealer might sell an $8,000 2013 Accord with 120,000 miles on it, have a Fair Business Practices Act violation, and commits an unfair business practice that harms the consumer.
In depositions and discovery, the consumer can prove, show or establish that
the dealer acted with intent and that $8,000 damage becomes $24,000 damage.
Whereas the dealer thought they were selling this relatively affordable car, it’s not worth all that much. We’re not talking about a new Lamborghini, we are talking about a 2013 Accord with over 100,000 miles on it. Next thing they know, they’re paying an attorney to defend a lawsuit tens of thousands of dollars and they’re also getting hit with a $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 Fair Business Practices Act treble damage violation. These can be big deals.
But that’s where the damages come in in the Fair Business Practices Act. The Secretary of State has the ability to fine based on each violation and the consumer sues for the actual damage incurred, potentially travel damages. There are also some other attorneys’ fees, potentially punitive damages, other things. But the Treble is specific to the Fair Business Practices Act.
For more videos on the Georgia Car Law Authority series, please visit www.georgiacarlaw.com.
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