(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — The red 2005 Ford Freestyle seemed like the perfect fit for Britny Luster, her fiancé Steven Quackenbush, and their four children. The Facebook post advertising the used crossover promised a great deal for a reliable family vehicle, just what the young Columbus couple needed.
Quackenbush had just received his tax refund in the mail, and the pair decided it was time to buy a vehicle big enough for their growing family. But just three days after driving it off the sales lot of a Columbus car dealership, they realized they’d been duped: The vehicle was severely damaged from a crash and it was unsafe to drive.
“I took it to a mechanic to get an alignment, and he brought me under the car to show me how bad the damage was,” Luster said. “The frame was completely messed up and there was a hole in the floorboard that went completely through the bottom of the car. He said it should have been totaled.”
The couple demanded a refund from the dealership, but it refused. That’s when Steven went to his mother, Paula Quackenbush, for advice. Paula works for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office and wondered if his Consumer Protection Section could help.
“Anyone who’s been ripped off like this couple knows it’s frustrating and easy to feel helpless,” Yost said. “Always remember that you have rights, and my team of consumer experts wants to help you defend them.”
Yost’s office convinced the dealership to provide a full refund within seven days, as well as an apology. Luster and Quackenbush used the money to buy another car from a different dealership.
The couple’s story is all too common, Yost said. Ohioans filed 4,140 consumer complaints involving used-car sales with the Attorney General’s Office in 2018, by far the most pervasive type of complaint.
Yost said one way car buyers can protect themselves from problem dealerships is by researching consumer complaints online through his office and the Better Business Bureau. It’s also a good idea to have a trustworthy mechanic check a car before agreeing to buy it, he said.
The arrival of a tax refund often leads to a major purchase, like Luster and Quackenbush’s car. But Yost cautioned Ohioans to be careful with their refunds.
“I don’t care if your refund goes toward a shopping spree or your savings – just don’t let it go to waste,” he said.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
More consumer tips from the attorney general are available online: