Indiana auto dealerships face lawsuits over car-buying fees

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Dozens of Indiana auto dealerships face lawsuits that accuse them of charging excessive fees to prepare sales-related documents.

At least seven lawsuits, all pursuing class-action status, were filed in April, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported. The suits allege that car dealerships demand fees, with some approaching $200 per business deal, as a means to “extract additional profits from consumers in an unfair and prohibited manner.”

The pending lawsuits accuse dealerships of violating the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.

“Unless they’re buying a new printer for every set of documents, it doesn’t make sense why it would cost that amount of money. It’s very unfair to Indiana consumers.” said Vess Miller, an attorney with Indianapolis firm Cohen & Mallad LLP, which is representing the plaintiffs in several of the suits.

However, the car dealerships said they’re just doing what’s allowed under an agreement established with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

Bill Skillman, vice president of Ray Skillman Auto Group, confirmed it was “correct” that dealers have been given such counsel from the state.

“It is our understanding, while working directly with the state association, who in turn works directly with the Indiana Attorney General, we have abided by all guidance in relation to the documentation fees,” Skillman told the newspaper.

Other dealership companies that the newspaper contacted did not respond to a request for comment. The Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana also did not reply.

The suits come as the state considers relaxing standards for charging such fees. Legislation that passed the General Assembly and is currently before Gov. Eric Holcomb would eliminate the standard that the fees mirror actual dealership costs, as long as they are less than $200.

Miller said he believed the dealerships were probably thinking that the legislature would provide them with a “get out of jail free card,” but added the lawyers plan to contest the legislation in court if the governor passes it.

“I think it’s unconstitutional,” Miller said. “There’s a whole body of case law that says the legislature can’t pass retroactive laws that take away people’s vested rights.”

 

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