How Auto Equity Works
Auto equity promoters usually target consumers who have leased or financed an auto and can no longer afford to continue making monthly payments. These consumers are reluctant to terminate their finance agreement because of the large termination penalty. Promoters attract these consumers with the promise of finding someone to "take the car off of their hands." Through advertisement, promoters find another consumer (subcontractee) willing to take over the lease or finance payments in exchange for the automobile. The subcontractee often is attracted to the deal because poor credit prevents them from leasing or financing a car of their own. The promoters charge a substantial fee to the subcontractee for finding the automobile. Most arrangements of this type are prohibited by auto-financing or auto-leasing contracts. Promoters attempt to have these arrangements kept secret by having the subcontractee make the payments to the original contract holder. The contract owner then makes the payment directly to the leasing or financing institution.
Initially, the auto equity promotion arrangements seem to solve the problems of both the person that does not have a credit rating high enough to finance an auto, and the person that is in danger of damaging their credit rating by failing to keep up with their monthly finance payments. Unfortunately, many of these agreements do not result in happy endings.
Auto Equity Promotion Problems
While this promotion arrangement may seem attractive to many consumers, a variety of legal problems may arise.
Auto equity promotion arrangements may lead to repossession of the automobile since they are in violation of most financing or leasing contracts. In the case of repossession:
If the subcontractee stops making payments to the original owner, the original owner is still responsible to make payments on an automobile that is no longer in their possession.
If the subcontractee has an accident without adequate insurance, the original contract holder is left with legal liability to cover the damages. Parking tickets are also the responsibility of the original contract holder.
In the case of financed cars, the original consumer runs the risk of being criminally prosecuted under New York State Penal Law by disposing of a vehicle through an auto equity agreement.
In January 1997, New York State amended the General Business Law. It is now illegal to deal in auto equity promotions. Violators of this law can now be fined up to $1000. New York follows 10 other states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, Texas, Virginia, and Washington) in passing laws to specifically prohibit the activities of auto equity promoters.
What to do
If you are having trouble maintaining regular automobile payments, check with your lending institution, or leasing company. Often if you explain your circumstances some arrangement can be worked out.
If you run across advertisements for auto equity promoters, report it to the Office of the Attorney General. Consumers can also file complaints against auto equity promoters with:
New York State Office of the Attorney General
Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection
New York, New York 10271
Consumers can also file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau Serving Metropolitan New York can be reached in four ways. For immediate assistance, call 212-533-6200. The charge is $3.80 plus applicable tax, charged to a major credit card. Consumers can also call 1-900-255-5222. The charge is $3.80 for the first 4 minutes and 95 cents per minute thereafter. The average call costs $3.80; the maximum charge is $3.80. The maximum charge is $9.50. For free information or to file a complaint, write to 257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010-7384 or check our site on the World Wide Web.