State Vehicle Safety Division investigates consumer complaints against car dealers and repair shops across the state
Governor Cuomo announced that nearly $1.2 million was returned to consumers in 2014 due to the work of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Vehicle Safety Division – a unit tasked with investigating consumer complaints and regulating businesses statewide. The division investigates more than 3,700 wide-ranging consumer complaints each year, including issues involving vehicle dealers or repair shops accused of selling vehicles in poor condition, failing to register vehicles, committing inspection fraud, and making faulty repairs.
"These unscrupulous business practices rob New Yorkers of their hard earned money, not to mention causing potential safety hazards that put many others at risk," Governor Cuomo said. "Our message is simple: If you prey on your customers, you will be caught and you will be held accountable."
When customers make a complaint about a business, the DMV first tries to resolve the problem by discussing it with the customer and the business. About half of all complaints are resolved directly with consumers having vehicles repaired, getting refunds on faulty repairs, or with dealers buying vehicles back. However, if the problem isn’t fixed a DMV inspector further investigates the complaint. If it is found that a dealer or shop violated laws and regulations, DMV can suspend or revoke business registrations and impose fines.
The following is a regional breakdown of consumer recoveries from repair shops, auto dealers, and inspection stations after making complaints to the DMV:
Region Amount Recovered
Central New York
New York City
Western New York
While the DMV cracks down on problematic businesses when needed, staff also go out of their way to help businesses. The agency protects consumers not only by assisting them directly, but by serving more than 46,000 businesses and helping them to provide outstanding customer service. DMV provides technical support; helps businesses navigate and abide by laws and regulations; and teaches and supports the business community to ensure New Yorkers are getting fair and transparent services. Types of businesses that receive such assistance include car, boat, ATV, and snowmobile dealers; repair shops; inspection stations; scrap collectors; junk and salvage shops; and more.
Businesses are encouraged to use DMV’s regional offices for help.
“Consumers not only have an advocate at DMV to help when they feel cheated or fleeced, but a presence that acts as a deterrent for bad behavior on the part of businesses that take advantage of their customers,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan. “DMV is proud of the work this unit does on behalf of New Yorkers each day, often when consumers feel like they have nowhere to turn for help.”
Customers can file a complaint with the DMV, even if they have also contacted another consumer protection agency. To find out more information on filing a consumer complaint, click here. Complaints must be made to DMV within 90 days or 3,000 miles after the repair, whichever comes first. DMV cannot resolve disputes over the terms of warranties or guarantees.
DMV’s website also contains a wealth of information about how consumers can protect themselves before buying a vehicle. Consumers looking for repair shops for cars they already own can also follow these tips for avoiding trouble:
- Deal only with a registered shop. Make sure there's a green and white "Registered State of New York Motor Vehicle Repair Shop" sign outside the shop and a valid DMV registration certificate inside.
- Verify that the business is registered with DMV by visiting the DMV website. Only businesses with valid registrations will be returned in a search.
- Ask your family, friends and co-workers for advice on reliable repair shops in your area, as well as those you should avoid.
- Keep all records, including estimates, invoices, work orders, receipts, guarantees and warranties. Besides their importance in case you file a repair complaint, these papers serve as your record of service, and could increase your vehicle's resale value.
- If you authorize repair work by phone, write down the date and time, the name of the person you spoke with, any estimated price quoted, and other pertinent details.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. Management of a shop should take the time to explain required repairs and prices, discuss problems, and tell you about the training and experience of employees.
In addition to protecting consumers and regulating businesses as required by the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law and Commissioner’s Regulations, the Vehicle Safety Division also develops, operates, evaluates, and maintains the system for conducting emissions inspections in New York State in accordance with the federal Clean Air Act.
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