Hank Investigates: Used Car Refund Roadblock

(WHDH) — One local mom thought she got a good deal on a used car, then it just stopped working and the dealer closed! Hank Phillippi Ryan uncovers why consumers are hitting refund roadblocks. Hank Investigates.

Busy mom Kristen has to borrow cars to shuttle her kids around and drive to business meetings.

“I’m so frustrated. I’ve been car-less since July of 2019.

That’s when Kristen paid a used car dealer in Canton more than $9500 for this SUV.

She says Empire Motors Incorporated dropped the vehicle off in her driveway.

There was no registration, paperwork, and then the car actually just stopped working.

She demanded a refund. The car dealer did pick up the car and cut her a check.

But the check bounced! And the dealership closed.

Officials say the owner vanished and Kristen’s money vanished too.

“It’s a really big amount of money. I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Kristen says.

We found Massachusetts law requires that every used car dealer set aside money in a special account to pay back customers if there’s a problem like this.

Good news for Kristen? Nope.

“It’s beyond irritating,” Kristen says.

Here’s why: we discovered Kristen is one of more than a dozen unhappy Empire Motors Incorporated customers who had to go to court to try to get money from that fund. There’s not enough money though to pay them all back.

“I’m mad not just for myself, but for everyone who’s involved,” Kristen says.

It’s such a mess that the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office had to step in to help the court calculate how much of a refund each victim can get.

“The current system is not fair,” Attorney General Maura Healey says.

“And what can be done to change that?” Hank asked.

“I think we need a new law,” Healey says.

The new law Healey wants would increase the amount of money that used car dealers have to put into the fund. It would also make it easier for wronged customers to get that money.

“We just don’t want to see in the future people being left high and dry like this again,” Healey says.

But for now, Kristen knows she’ll never get all her money back. And she may have to keep borrowing cars.

“It’s infuriating,” Kristen says.

A judge is expected to decide next month how much money Kristen and the other customers will get. And the legislation Attorney General Healey is calling for has now been filed on Beacon Hill.

For more information on the legislation:

“An Act Modernizing Protections for Consumers in Automobile Transactions”

Sponsored by: Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough) and Representative Carlos González (D-Springfield)

Link to House Bill 1676 filed by Rep. Carlos Gonzalez from Springfield.

Link to Senate Bill 1027 filed by Sen. Paul Feeney of Foxborough.

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