Portland-area auto dealership pays $5K to settle warranty case

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AUGUSTA — A Portland-area auto dealership will pay a $5,000 civil penalty in a settlement with the state over claims of “unfair and deceptive” warranty practices.

The settlement approved Jan. 5 in Kennebec County Superior Court also prohibits Berlin City Auto Group from telling customers that the dealership is not responsible for serious defects in new cars. The company, which sells cars in Portland and South Portland, allegedly told buyers that only auto manufacturers could be held liable for defects.

“One of the most important consumer rights in Maine law says that if you are sold a seriously defective product, the seller or the manufacturer has to repair it,” Attorney General William J. Schneider said in a press release Friday, Jan. 20. “The dealer is required to share the responsibility for repair if a new car sold to a consumer turns out to have serious problems.”

Berlin City did not admit any wrongdoing, but agreed to pay the $5,000 fine and to inform past customers who were improperly turned down that they can seek reimbursement for new-car repairs that should have been covered by warranties.

Schneider’s press release said Maine implied warranty law protects consumers for up to four years after the purchase of all household or personal goods, excluding used cars.