Failure to reveal open recalls may not be dealer fraud

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When a defect in a motor vehicle leads to the injury or death of a child, parents and community members understandably rush to find a reason. In some cases, dealer fraud is the reason a vehicle is sold with a defect. However, California consumers may be interested in knowing how much responsibility a used car dealer has in making repairs for autos under recall notice. A community in another state learned this information following a tragic accident that resulted in a child's death.

The teenager became trapped and suffocated when the rear bench of his family's minivan flipped forward and crushed him. The unusual circumstances surrounding the boy's death caused investigators to speculate whether the van had an outstanding recall. Although it did not, other used car owners began to look into potential recall notices, and some were shocked to find that they had purchased vehicles with numerous outstanding and unrepaired notices despite the dealers' claims of certified inspections.

No state or federal laws prohibit a dealer from selling a used car with outstanding recalls. Also, no laws exist in California or elsewhere requiring a dealer to inform consumers of recall notices or to repair a defect. In fact, if the dealer is not affiliated with a certain model, it may not be allowed to repair recalls for that model. Numerous groups across the country are lobbying for changes in that area, but the used car dealers have their own strong lobbyists to fight these proposals.

Consumer advocates recommend avoiding the purchase of a used car that is of a different model from the dealership. It is also advisable to do thorough investigation through websites like SaferCar to learn about outstanding recalls. Those who purchase a vehicle with defects related to dealer fraud have every right to seek legal counsel about the best options for resolving the situation.

Source:, "How to check your car for unrepaired recalls", John Matarese, April 12, 2018

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