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Buyer beware: Used cars could have auto defects subject to recall

When Pennsylvania residents shop for a used car, they more than likely expect that a vehicle said to be "inspected" or "certified" will be safe. Unfortunately, that might not be the case. The Federal Trade Commission does not require used car dealers to make repairs to auto defects that are subject to recall. Consumers could drive off the lot with a vehicle that might seriously injure or kill them, their passengers or someone else on the road.

This fact prompted a lawsuit against the FTC for allowing vehicles on the road that require repairs based on recalls for airbags, faulty ignition switches and braking issues, along with those that need repairs for power steering and alternator issues. Any one of these defects could cause an accident and/or injuries. Even so, the FTC made a deal with two auto dealerships and General Motors allowing vehicles to be labeled certified or inspected as long as the consumer is told that the vehicle is subject to recalls that were not repaired.

This is possible even if the likelihood of the auto defect causing death is 100 percent. For instance, in light of the FTC's decision last year, Ford began allowing dealerships to advertise vehicles as certified as long as they did not use the word "safe" in advertising. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety and the Center for Auto Safety believe this practice to be deceptive even if a dealership discloses that a recall was not repaired. The fear is that making the FTC's position industry wide would put numerous lives in jeopardy.

The lawsuit filed against the FTC could stop this trend in its tracks and stop used car dealerships from letting vehicles off the lot that they know have dangerous and potentially lethal auto defects. In the meantime, Pennsylvania consumers need to be aware that the used vehicles they buy might not be as safe as they believe. Auto manufacturers and dealerships should be held responsible for deceptive practices that put the lives of consumers at risk.

Source: NBC News, "FTC Sued for Allowing Car Dealers to Sell Recalled Vehicles with Potentially Lethal Defects", Herb Weisbaum, Feb. 13, 2017

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