Of all the consumer complaints sent to NewsCenter 5, cars are far and away the top issue.
It’s the same for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, which receives approximately 3,000 car complaints every year.
Now, there’s a new effort to close some of the legal loopholes that put car sellers instead of car buyers in the driver’s seat.
After going for a hike at Wachusett Dam in Clinton in the fall of 2020, Noel Edgren returned to find her parking spot empty, her car gone.
“My driver’s license, my debit card, my cash, my bag, everything was in the car,” she said. “So I called the police department because I couldn’t call a taxi, I couldn’t call an Uber. My mask was in my car. I had nothing.”
But police knew exactly where Edgren’s Chevy Cruz was.
“They told me that the car was repossessed and it was in Leominster,” she said.
Edgren leased the car from GM and the company repossessed it even though she was fully up-to-date on payments. But because of an administrative error, GM thought she was months behind. Yet the company did not give Edgren any notice or chance to fix it.
While that doesn’t seem fair, it is legal in Massachusetts. Lease companies are not required to let you know before they take back your vehicle.
“This was really a surprise to us and we heard from consumers across the Commonwealth as you have,” said Democratic state Senator Paul Feeney. “If these cars are being repossessed without notice or a right to cure, that’s a problem.”
Sen. Feeney is now sponsoring a bill that would change that, requiring notice before a leased vehicle is repossessed, similar to what is necessary for cars that are financed. The bill – S.2323 – would also make what he says are several other common-sense changes to Massachusetts consumer law around cars.
For instance, state law says buyers have seven days from the date of sale to get a car inspected and if it fails and requires expensive repairs, buyers are entitled to their money back. But Sen. Feeney says some unreputable used car dealers get around that by holding on to a car for several days after the papers are signed.
“There will be delays, and they’ll say ‘We’re trying to prep the car,'” Sen. Feeney said. “They know full well that car will likely fail an inspection. And six days, seven days later the consumer takes that car on, it’s just too late.”
The bill simply changes the language in state law from the date of sale to the date of delivery.
“If you have a car that fails an inspection that becomes unusable right after paying an enormous amount of money for it, that could lead to financial ruin,” Sen. Feeney said. “Under this bill, the clock won’t start ticking for the consumer until they take delivery of the vehicle.”
Massachusetts law also requires dealers to offer a warranty on used cars with less than 125,000 miles. But since today’s cars are driven farther, this bill would increase that requirement to 200,000 miles.