Ford pays up for unpaid trade-in loans

August 27, 2009 7:06:08 PM PDT
A 7 On Your Side investigation launched three years ago into the business practices of a car dealer has lead to a major settlement. Scores of car buyers who say they were harmed in the case will now get restitution totaling up to $450,000.

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7 On Your Side launched its investigation after hearing from nearly three dozen car buyers who say they had been ripped off. They said Vacaville ford had accepted their trade-ins, but not paid off the remainders of their loans as promised. Our investigation sparked probes by the authorities.

Three years later, consumers are finally going to get their loans paid off.

Robert Duvall bought his Ford Explorer from Vacaville Ford in 2007 and traded in his old pick-up. Within months, he was being hounded by bill collectors demanding to know why he stopped sending in car payments on his pick-up.

"I wasn't getting sleep at night; I was getting phone calls day and night from creditors and from collection agencies, I was getting notices in the mail," Duvall said.

The Solano County District Attorney's office says Duvall is one of 200 potential victims who traded in their cars expecting Vacaville Ford to pay off their loans.

Many are still trying to repair their credit and an estimated 50 people are still waiting for their cars to be paid off.

"A number of people have called, crying, about not being able to get an apartment because their credit has been ruined or just calling every couple of weeks to see what the status of the case is," Deputy DA Diane Taira said.

The dealership closed down in 2007 after Ford Motor Credit repossessed much of Vacaville Ford's inventory, accusing it of not repaying loans Ford made to the dealership.

In 2006, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney walked into the dealership demanding to know what was going on. He ran into the dealership's general manager. He declined an on-camera interview, but off-camera, owner Bryan White said loans cannot be paid off until the financing is secured.

Thursday, the Ford Motor Company sent the DA's office a check for $450,000. The money will be used to pay off the unpaid loans made on cars traded in to Vacaville Ford. White is banned from the car business for five years.

"It's pretty significant; it's not, I don't think, as much that would have been warranted in a case like this given the gravity of the situation, but my primary goal and the goal of this office was always to get restitution," Taira said.

The settlement stems from a civil suit filed by the Solano County DA's office alleging unfair business practices and charging Ford with knowing about it and not doing anything to stop it.

"I'd like to say thank you very much to 7 On Your Side for getting involved in this, and for the Solano County DA's office for taking an active role in this," Duvall said.

Those who have already fled formal complaints with the DA's office will be notified of the settlement. Others will have 120 days to file a claim.

Late Thursday, the Ford Motor Company told us 7 On Your Side it is pleased the DA was able to resolve the case in favor of consumers. It also noted the lawsuit has been dismissed with no finding of fault.

To file a claim on the Vacaville Ford Restitution Fund call:
Gilardi & Co, LLC
888-955-2713

Past 7 On Your Side stories about Vacaville Ford:
Ford repossesses Vacaville dealership's cars
Vacaville Ford Under Investigation By DA
Vacaville Ford Sued
Vacaville Ford Under Investigation
Drivers Hounded For Money They Don't Owe

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