Business

Brooks Biddle president says information regarding Lemon Law violation was 'misleading'

According to the state attorney general's office, Washington’s Lemon Law requires that car dealers inform buyers if a vehicle has ever been returned to a manufacturer.

In a press release, the attorney general’s office, which enforces the law, also alleges that a Bothell Chevrolet dealer neglected more than once to provide the required disclosures.

President of Brooks Biddle Chevrolet, John Biddle said the information coming from the attorney general's office is "misleading." Biddle maintains the entire incident stems from an instance in which the dealership notified the state they did not have the proper paperwork — paperwork Biddle termed as redundant — regarding a car that had been recalled by the manufacturer because of a flawed paint job.

"We called the AG's (attorney general's) office and that's when they opened the complaint," Biddle said. "We considered it to be a little bit of an ambush."

According to state Consumer Protection Division Chief Doug Walsh, Brooks Biddle violated a November 2009 settlement when it sold a 2002 GMC Yukon on Jan. 16. Walsh maintains the dealership failed to inform the buyer that the SUV had been returned to the manufacturer under a Lemon buyback program, then resold at a California auction.

“Consumers deserve to know whether a car may have potential problems,” Walsh said. “An informed shopper may still buy the vehicle, but likely would negotiate differently had they received the required Lemon Law disclosures. Lemon buyback cars have branded titles, so the resale value is lower.”

Biddle said his dealership often sells recalled cars at a discount price, informing consumers why the price is lower. He insisted that in this case, the buyer knew about the paint defect, a defect the buyer was unable to find on the vehicle. Further, in Biddle's opinion, characterizing the car as violating the state's Lemon Law imposes an overly negative connotation. He said people hear "Lemon Law violation" and think of a major defect or safety problem.

According to the state, Washington’s law requires that a bright yellow “Lemon Law Resale Notice” be placed on a car window. Buyers must also receive documents informing them that the car title will include a comment that the vehicle was previously returned to the manufacturer and this may affect the vehicle’s future resale value.

According to the attorney general, Brooks Biddle paid $4,000 in legal costs and attorneys’ fees to resolve the state’s earlier allegations that the company failed to provide the appropriate forms to 21 buyers. That settlement also required the dealership to make a good-faith effort to resolve disputes.

The new agreement filed in King County Superior Court requires Brooks Biddle to pay $3,140 in civil penalties and an additional $2,750 in legal costs and attorney fees. If the company fails to comply with the law, the state can seek a $25,000 penalty for each future violation.

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