By Jim Donovan: The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has filed a lawsuit against three Philadelphia-area car dealerships and their president amid allegations that they sold and leased used cars at inflated prices, used deceptive business practices and sold vehicles that were not roadworthy.

The lawsuit comes after the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection investigated more than 130 complaints concerning Dean Cafiero and his businesses: Drivehere.com, Car Vision and Carvision.com.

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The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, restitution and penalties of up to $1,000 for every violation of the Consumer Protection Law.

The businesses operated three dealerships in Montgomery County and Philadelphia, advertising bargain deals on used cars that targeted consumers with poor credit or no credit. The company used slogans such as “$1 Drive Today” and “$1 & $79 A Week.”

Customers who did business with Cafiero and his dealerships reported various problems with the condition of vehicles, billing or credit disputes, repair issues and contract disputes, among several other reported problems. Other complaints were made after Cafiero and his businesses allegedly omitted important details regarding contracts and warranties.

One consumer reported signing documents to purchase a vehicle, only to learn later that the payments were actually to lease the car. The purchase fee was nearly triple the value of the vehicle, according to the lawsuit.

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In another case, a customer reported purchasing a car from Drivehere.com that required repairs the day after the initial sale. After several unsuccessful attempts to fix the car, the customer was placed in another vehicle. That vehicle also allegedly had various problems. The customer eventually took the vehicle to another car service center, where numerous problems with the vehicle were confirmed, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit further alleges that Cafiero and the dealerships are in violation of several sections of the Consumer Protection Law and the Automobile Regulations. The Bureau of Consumer Protection also believes there are other consumers who have not filed complaints and who may have been harmed by these alleged scams.

Other consumers who may have been victims are encouraged to contact the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at (800) 441-2555 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov.

3 On Your Side reached out to the management at Drivehere.com for a comment about the lawsuit and so far we have not heard back from anyone.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when considering purchasing a used car:

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Assess your needs. To get a good deal on a used car, hold it to the same standards as buying a new car, such as how long you will use the vehicle, how long you will keep it, the size and features you need, your budget for the purchase and operation and maintenance costs.
Private owners. Private owners are not held to the same standards as licensed car dealers. They usually sell their cars through newspaper ads or online. You may find a well-maintained vehicle selling for less money than you would pay a dealer. If you buy from a private owner, ask for the maintenance and repair records. Also check the title to make sure the person selling the car is the legal owner.
Complete a thorough check. You cannot expect perfection in a used car, but you shouldn’t overlook serious defects. Make safety a priority. Check the body for rust or cracks. Tires, battery, doors, windows, lights, tailpipe, shock absorbers and fluids are all details that need a close look before you buy. Mechanical parts such as the headlights, heater and windshield wipers should be functioning properly. Also check the interior seats and floor for any major wear and tear. Road test the car before you commit to buying. If you are not allowed to test drive the vehicle, don’t buy it.
Avoid high-pressure sales. If you complete a purchase at a used-car dealer, the contract is often binding and does not provide a right to cancel provision. Walk away from any deal you are not comfortable with.
Read it before you sign it. As you finalize a deal on a used car read and understand any written agreement. All blank spaces should be completed. If there is a warranty, learn exactly what it covers. If you are required to make a deposit, ask if it is refundable and make sure it is included in the contract.