LEWISTON — Attorney General Janet T. Mills filed a lawsuit against a Bangor used car dealer who owned two dealerships in Lewiston for unfair and deceptive trade practices in the promotion and sale of vehicles.
The complaint, filed in Penobscot County Superior Court on Jan. 31, alleged that Glenn A. Geiser Jr. and his dealerships, Bangor Car Care, Bumper2Bumper and My Maine Ride, targeted consumers with poor credit who need financing, pressured them to buy cars that were not roadworthy and did not respond to customer complaints, according to a news release issued Friday by Mills’ office.
In Androscoggin County Superior Court, two civil complaints are pending against Geiser.
In one of those suits, filed last year, Alexander Transports is suing Bangor Car Care for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Geiser is representing himself; his attorney withdrew in June. Mediation was scheduled in that case at the end of last month, according to a court clerk.
In the other lawsuit, Lisa Jarvis of Auburn lodged a complaint last year under the Used Car Information Act.
She bought a 2002 Chevrolet Trailblazer at Maine Bumper2Bumper at 1399 Lisbon St. for nearly $14,000, she said in court papers.
Jarvis claimed, among other things, that the dealership took her car as trade-in and agreed to take over her car payments, but never did. The continued automatic withdrawals from her bank account resulted in bank fees.
When the SUV was delivered, nearly a month after she bought it, its battery was dead and she had to buy a new one. Although the dealer had put a current inspection stick on the vehicle, it failed to pass at a different inspection garage that Jarvis took it to, sensing there might be other problems with it.
The dealer refused to take back the vehicle after Jarvis presented a list of defective items but offered to fix them. Two months after she bought the vehicle, Jarvis had to replace the transmission at a cost of $2,306, she claimed in court papers.
Jarvis tried to settle the matter without litigation, but Geiser failed to follow through, according to the complaint.
Geiser didn’t respond to the lawsuit and defaulted in September. A hearing is schedule for Feb. 20 when a judge is expected to award damages to Jarvis.
Both of Geiser’s Lewiston dealerships on Lisbon Street closed.
Mills is seeking civil penalties and a permanent injunction to bar Geiser and any entity in which he has an ownership interest from promoting, selling and/or financing used cars.
“These kinds of practices give Maine businesses a bad name,” Mills said in the release. “Targeting vulnerable people and duping them into buying cars that are not safe not only defrauds the consumer but puts every person traveling our roads at risk. We intend to put a stop to it.”
Geiser was not available Friday morning. A voice mail message was not immediately returned.
Bangor attorney Joseph Baldacci, who is representing Geiser, issued a statement on behalf of his client.
“As Mr. Geiser’s attorney, we are going to deal with this civil complaint in court and not by press release,” Baldacci said. “Mr. Geiser has sold over 18,000 vehicles — more than any used car dealer in the state — and that would not be possible if these complaints were anywhere near the truth. The attorney general wants to shut down a business with 18 employees before they have even been given their day in court.
“I specifically and in writing requested whatever supporting documentation they had for these charges back on Jan. 2 and have received no supporting paperwork of any kind from the AG despite what they have in their press release,” he continued. “Our office will focus on what evidence is produced in court and the attorney general can focus on issuing press releases.”
Typically, consumers at Geiser’s businesses were shown cars that failed to pass inspection so they could not be taken out for test drives, Mills said in the news release. Known mechanical defects were not disclosed to consumers, as required by state law.
When a consumer decided to buy a car, Geiser and his firms would complete the financing documents and tell the consumer to return at a later date to pick up the car after it has gone into the shop for an inspection sticker, the attorney general alleged. Many consumers were unable to get their cars when promised, and some made payments on cars they did not receive.
Some discovered after they took delivery that their cars should not have passed inspection, Mills said in the release. Many cars broke down or developed serious mechanical issues soon after purchase, but the defendants refused to fix the problems.
The complaint also alleged that response of Geiser and his companies to consumer complaints was rude and abusive and calculated to discourage consumers from seeking redress. These acts also constitute an unfair trade practice, Mills said.
Maine law requires used car dealers to post a conspicuous notice that a car is an unsafe motor vehicle if it does not meet Maine’s inspection standards and is displayed for sale, according to the release. The dealer must also disclose certain information about a used car’s history, including any known mechanical defect, even if it has been repaired, and to obtain written acknowledgement from the buyer. The buyer of an unsafe motor vehicle must tow it, not drive it, from the dealer’s lot.
For information about the Used Car Information Act, or to file a complaint, consumers may contact the Consumer Protection Division atwww.maine.gov/ag/consumer or by calling 800-436-2131.
Sun Journal Staff Writer Christopher Williams contributed to this report.