U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is joining consumer groups in calling on the Federal Trade Commission to take action and prevent used car dealers from selling vehicles that have been recalled due to safety defects.
Schumer, D-N.Y., sent a letter to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez asking the agency to address concerns expressed by Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety and other groups about the marketing practices of CarMax, a large used car dealer which has more than 120 stores, including one in Rochester.
The consumer groups accuse CarMax of failing to act on safety recalls and make necessary repairs before selling used vehicles. In the groups' petition to the FTC, they said CarMax offers a "certified quality inspection," but addressing safety recalls aren't included.
"It is inherently deceptive for an auto dealer to represent that its vehicles have passed a rigorous inspection, while failing to take even the most basic step of checking the vehicle's safety recall status in order to identify known safety defects that have triggered a federal safety recall, and ensuring that the safety recall repairs have been performed, prior to selling the vehicle to a consumer," consumer advocates wrote in the petition.
Schumer said if the claims made by consumer groups are true, the FTC should take action to address the "inherently deceptive and dangerous practice" of selling used cars that are under a safety recall.
In his letter to the FTC, Schumer said used car dealers should be held to the same standard as sellers of new cars. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act, he wrote, prohibits car dealerships from selling new cars that have been recalled due to a safety defect. Before selling a new car, the dealer must address the issue that led to the recall.
"Used cars that have a safety recall shouldn't be sold to anyone until the recall is fixed, period," Schumer said in a statement. Far too many times we have seen the tragic and often fatal consequences when deficient cars are allowed on the road, and it's time for the FTC to do everything it can to put a stop to it."
Here is the letter Schumer sent to the FTC:
Dear Chairwoman Ramirez:
I write today to express my grave concern over reports that used-car dealers are selling cars subject to recall for safety-related defects, while at the same time representing to consumers that those used vehicles have passed rigorous safety inspection. It is bad enough that used-car dealers are not required by law to fix a safety recall problem prior to selling the recalled vehicle to a consumer. Compounding the safety risks with misleading and deceptive advertising and sales practices only further endangers the safety of used-car customers and everyone who shares the roads. I ask that the Federal Trade Commission immediately investigate whether car dealers that sell used cars are implementing policies that mislead consumers about safety-related recalls. If the investigation reveals that used-car dealers have implemented these policies, the Commission should suggest steps that regulators or Congress should take to end these policies.
I understand that Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety and other consumer groups have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and take appropriate legal action regarding the advertising and sales practices of the largest retailer of used vehicles CarMax, because they allege this operation is selling vehicles that have been recalled for repair of safety defects without having fixed those safety defects. I respectfully request that the Commission address the allegations in the petition, launch a full-fledged investigation to determine whether other used-car dealers engage in similar practices, and move to prevent these practices from occurring in the future.
As you know, in accordance with the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, car dealers selling new cars are not permitted to sell recalled vehicles without first fixing the safety defects. Dealers selling used cars should be held to the same standard. I believe the Federal Trade Commission has the regulatory power to take appropriate action to protect the safety of used-car buyers. However, I am also actively exploring with my colleagues ways to enhance the agency’s power to take action on this matter via legislation.
The Commission has a long and distinguished history of cracking down on deceptive sales practices and protecting consumers. If the allegations by Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety prove to be true, I believe the Commission should take swift and decisive action to rectify the inherently deceptive and dangerous practice of selling safety-compromised used cars that are under recall to unsuspecting consumers.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you on this issue.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator