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A 22 years old young lady send her car to a car dealer for

service. The dealer told her...
A 22 years old young lady send her car to a car dealer for service. The dealer told her that she could use one of dealer's service cars without any cost. The young lady took one service car and drove it to a shop. After she finishing shopping, she found the parked car was hit and damaged. No one took the responsibility. She reported it to the local police.

The dealer asks the young lady pay for the repair cost. The young lady signed a contract when she took the service car. The contract is printed on the two sides of one sheet of paper. On the backside of the sheet, it says that the dealer is only responsible for the reliability and customer is responsible for anything else. When the young lady singed the contract, she was not aware of the backside of the contract and signed the front side of it. On the front side of the sheet, no word about the responsibility of accidents. No one in the dealer told her about her responsibility at the time. She would not have taken the service car if she knew the potential risk.

Does the dealer violate the consumer's right to be informed in this case? What are her options to protect her rights in this situation?
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10/27/2013
Legalease
Legalease, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 16,388
Experience: 13 years experience in Consumer Protection law, in particular construction law and auto repo law
Verified

Legalease :

Hello there.

Legalease :

Has the young lady checked with her own car insurance to determine if they might cover the damages?

Customer:

The initial response from her own auto insurance is that the dealer's insurance should pay for it.

Legalease :

I am inclined to agree and I think that the dealer probably has insurance to cover such an accident or they would not lend out cars to people having their own cars serviced. Unfortunately, most car dealers are not the most honest people in the world and they are going to try to push this to see if someone else will pay for it.

Legalease :

To be frank, regarding your question about the contract, the law presumes that if she is over 18 and of sound mind that she will read the entire contract before signing and there are no consumer protection laws that will get around that presumption.

Legalease :

Depending upon the amount of the damages, she may want to tell them that their own insurance should cover it and they should not loan out cars in that manner without asking about insurance.

Customer:

But she did not know there is anything printed on the back of the paper. The signature is on the front side of the paper.

Legalease :

That doesn't matter -- however, she can try to claim that by putting the matter of insurance on the back of the contract and not specifically asking about insurance (and asking her to sign a waiver of it like car rental companies do) that they were trying to conceal that they did not have adequate insurance coverage and as such that it was an unfair and deceptive business practice under Montana and federal consumer protection laws.

Legalease :

There are laws that protect consumers agains "unfair and deceptive business practices" but the statute itself does not define exactly WHAT those practices are

Legalease :

It is up to the consumer to show a court that the manner in which they operated was unfair and deceptive and then the judge makes a decision regarding whether or not what happened meets the standards of unfair and deceptive business practices in order to nullify the contract

Customer:

She just purchased her car from the dealer a week ago. They knew what kind of auto insurance she has.

Legalease :

As I said, though --



There are laws that protect consumers agains "unfair and deceptive business practices" but the statute itself does not define exactly WHAT those practices are








It is up to the consumer to show a court that the manner in which they operated was unfair and deceptive and then the judge makes a decision regarding whether or not what happened meets the standards of unfair and deceptive business practices in order to nullify the contract



Legalease :

What she should do is file a complaint with the Montana Attorney General's office and the local Better Business Bureau explaining what happened and that what they did to her was unfair and deceptive under the consumer protection laws (make sure she uses the words unfair and deceptive)

Customer:

I see. Should she go to small court ? The repair cost is less than $2000

Legalease :

She could take it to small claims court and again, charge that the contract was null and void based upon the manner in which they did not inform her of the insurance issue and get her to sign a waiver (as I said - car rental companies are required to do that and if they want to operate like one then they should act like one) and as a secondary issue that they did not let her know there was more to the contract than the front side (they should have had her sign it at the end) and state in the complaint that these practices were unfair and deceptive and because of that, the contract is null and void and the dealer is responsible for the car repairs.

Legalease :

I think it is a good argument, but I do not want to tell you it is a slam dunk. I have seen people win on less -- it depends upon the judge.

Legalease :

If you give me a minute, I will get the statute citation for the Montana Consumer Protection Act

Legalease :

Montana Code 30-14-1101 is the Montana Consumer Protection Act against Unfair Trade Practices -- they have an interesting section regarding the plain meaning of contracts and how the contract is supposed to be appropriately captioned and set out for consumers to read and understand. While it does not specifically state that a contract can only be signed at the end, I think she can use this section in a small claims complaint to claim that the contract was not plain enough for her to understand there is a second side

Legalease :

Let me get you a link to the statute itself AND the section on contracts.

Customer:

Thanks.

Legalease :

Here is a link to the statute itself -- http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/mtcode/30/14 and a link to the section 11 on plain meaning in contracts -- http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/mtcode/30/14/11

Legalease :

When you go to the main link you can actually scroll through to see the sections of the statute anyway. I think after reading these specific statutes that she may have a good argument against having to pay for any damages

Legalease :

Again, though -- please remember that they will start with "it was a contract and she should have read and signed it" and you need to point to the statute and say "it was not clear enough and therefore unfair and deceptive" -- by clear enough I mean it was 2 pages that she did not know about AND they did not tell her specifically about the insurance.

Customer:

Thanks. This helps a lot. If she has any other questions, how to find you again?

Legalease :

Ask another question and start it with "This is for Mary M" and then continue on with the question -- they will refer the question to me.

Legalease :

I would appreciate it if you can press a positive rating before leaving the website -- I am paid nothing unless you do that. It is just the trigger that tells the website to pay me for assisting you today (it will not cost any additional money)

Customer:

I will. Thank you for your help.

Legalease :

Best of Luck with this

Customer:

Thank you and bye

Legalease
Legalease, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 16,388
Experience: 13 years experience in Consumer Protection law, in particular construction law and auto repo law
Verified
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Legalease
Legalease
Legalease, Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 16,388
16,388 Satisfied Customers
Experience: 13 years experience in Consumer Protection law, in particular construction law and auto repo law

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