State Obtains Restraining Order Against New York City's Largest Auto Auctioneer

State Attorney General Spitzer today announced that the State Supreme Court has granted his application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to prohibit Triboro Auto Auctions from continuing fraudulent business practices that dupe consumers into buying unsafe vehicles.

Triboro Auto Auctions, located at 2500 Park Avenue in the Bronx, is a multi-million dollar business that sells, leases and services used motor vehicles to the general public. In 1999, the company sold over 3,500 vehicles. Triboro advertises its automobile auctions in radio, television, billboard and local newspaper ads and flyers, in addition to online advertising. Customers are promised "100% satisfaction guaranteed," and told that all cars are guaranteed, warrantied and inspected per state law.

The Attorney General's office alleged in court papers that Triboro victimized consumers by engaging in false and misleading advertising, selling cars that were unfit to drive, misrepresenting the condition of vehicles, failing to honor all applicable warranties, delivering cars with faulty inspection stickers and engaging in deceptive pricing practices.

"This action is an important step in our ongoing efforts to protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices of autodealers," Spitzer said. "Coming from one of the area's largest dealers, Triboro's unconscionable disregard for its customers and blatant violation of the law demand redress."

Proclaiming itself as the "#1 auction dealer in New York," Triboro operates four auto auctions every week at which it claims to save consumers thousands of dollars on the more than 1,000 used cars being offered. However, many of the cars have failed to function properly from the moment purchasers drive them off Triboro's premises.

Consumers were not allowed to test drive vehicles before purchasing them, and instead were only permitted to view cars two hours before the auction would start. Although state law requires a dealer, prior to a sale, to inspect and certify that a vehicle is fit to drive, Triboro repeatedly sells cars in violation of this "statutory warranty of serviceability." Triboro misrepresented the condition, and often the mileage, of vehicles and refused to refund the deposit or the full amount when a consumer would return with significant problems. Triboro further violated state law by demanding significant sums of money for repairs covered by a statutory warranty of serviceability and/or the State Lemon law.

In addition, The Attorney General's complaint noted that Triboro operated a service station under the name of George's Auto Services, which is located at the same Park Avenue address. Consumers have been directed to George's for repairs on those frequent occasions when their cars failed to function as they should.

Many consumers complained that, even if the vehicle made it home, problems needing repairs often arose within days, and when the consumer would return to Triboro for repairs, the problem often went unfixed, and the consumer would be overcharged for the repair or were denied refunds.

By citing 75 consumer complaints, as well as investigations and hearings conducted by the State Department of Motor Vehicles and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, Spitzer's office cited numerous, flagrant violations of law by Triboro, including:

  • Falsely advertising that all cars were warrantied and covered by the State Used Car Lemon Law and misrepresenting the condition of many vehicles;
  • Engaging in deceptive warranty practices such as failure to honor statutory "warranty of serviceability," selling cars not fit to be driven (in violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law), failure to repair unfit vehicles free of charge, and failure to adequately repair them or repair them at all;
  • Failing to give refunds for defective vehicles or reimburse consumers for repair costs;
  • Failing to honor the "Used Car Lemon Law Warranty" or honor Triboro's own warranty;
  • Misrepresenting consumers' warranty rights;
  • Falsely stating to consumers that deposits would be refunded;
  • Misleading consumers regarding the total amount to be paid for the vehicle;
  • Conducting improper and deceptive inspection practices;
  • Deceiving consumers as to the mileage of vehicles;
  • Selling cars without proper title;
  • Failing to properly register vehicles; and
  • Failing to pay Small Claims Court judgments.

The Attorney General thanked Commissioner Richard Jackson of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Commissioner Jane Hoffman of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs for their agencies' assistance in developing this case. The AG has also asked both government agencies to review the evidence of alleged wrongdoing and to take appropriate administrative action against Triboro, including possible suspension or revocation of its licenses.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Lauren Raysor, in charge of the Harlem Regional Office, and Roberto LeBr?n, an Assistant Attorney General in the Harlem Regional Office, along with Jane Azia, Special Counsel for Consumer Frauds Litigation in the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.