HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The West Virginia Attorney General's Office has filed a suit against the owner of a Huntington used auto sales dealership, accused of a number of violations.
AG Patrick Morrissey announced the suit against Thomas J. Matthews, and Downtown Used Auto Sales, located in the 1300-block of 3rd Avenue in Huntington.
The Office of the Attorney General first opened an investigation into Downtown Used Auto Sales in September 2012 after receiving numerous complaints from Huntington-area consumers. At the time the suit was filed, the Office had received 22 formal complaints alleging a wide range of violations of the State's consumer protection laws in the sale and financing of used motor vehicles.
The allegations included that Matthews sold unsafe vehicles, refused to repair significant mechanical defects, added unlawful finance charges, repossessed vehicles without the required legal notices, and illegally disposed of consumers' personal property. The Office issued an investigative subpoena to the car dealer on April 25, 2013, which asked for documents and information about his sales and financing practices.
"We seek to ensure that businesses comply with our consumer protection laws. The laws apply to every business regardless of size," Attorney General Morrisey said.
The filing summarizes 18 consumer complaints that illustrate the serious issues that consumers encountered with Downtown Used Auto Sales, including the sale of vehicles with mechanical defects, vehicles that could not pass inspection, illegal finance charges and fees, and repossessions without the required notices.
"In one of the examples included within the allegations, a consumer had her vehicle - which was not even able to pass inspection - repossessed without notice as required by law," Morrisey said. "When she called them to ask about retrieving her personal belongings in the car - including her college textbooks, her bible, and an infant's car seat - she was told the vehicle had been 'cleaned out' already, and all of her possessions were discarded."
WSAZ contacted the business Thursday, and TJ Matthews said he didn't know anything about the suit.
The suit asks the court to enter an order prohibiting Matthews from violating the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, and also asks the court to award civil penalties to the State and restitution to all consumers who have been aggrieved by DUAS's practices.
"Many used car dealers provide a valuable service by offering affordable, reliable vehicles to consumers who may not be able to obtain credit from mainstream lenders," Morrisey said. "However, being willing to extend credit under those circumstances doesn't excuse a dealer from its basic obligations under our State's consumer protection laws."