Some deal hunters stung in ‘Clunkers’ program
Like hundreds of thousands of folks this summer, Anna Causey knew a deal when she saw it. Enticed by the rebates offered under the cash for clunkers program, the Summerville, S.C., resident ran her 1986 Buick Century down to a local dealer last month, scrapped it for a 2009 Dodge Ram pickup, and scooped up a $3,500 government discount for the trouble.
A month later, it doesn’t seem like such a great bargain.
Causey’s trade, it turns out, didn’t qualify for a rebate based on the cash-for-clunkers’ mileage requirements. Though she’d signed all the papers, swapped the tags and updated her insurance policy, Causey was called back to the dealership shortly afterward and presented with two options: either accept a new contract — one that would grant $1,000 for the old Buick and require that she pay back the $2,500 difference — or give up the truck. Thinking a deal’s a deal, Causey and her husband chose a third route: they stormed out, and hired a lawyer instead.
“I didn’t even look at the new paperwork,” the 68-year-old Causey said in a telephone interview Friday. “I’d signed a contract. We walked off with the contract thinking we owned a truck.”
As the Obama administration begins winding down the $3 billion cash for clunkers program, similar stories of consumer frustration are popping up nationwide. While a great deal of ink has been used to chronicle the trials of the auto dealers — many of whom have become rankled by the slow pace of federal reimbursement — much less has gone to point out that there are consumers out there feeling roughed up as well. Some bargain hunters have been prevented from driving their new vehicle off the lot until Washington approves the rebate. Others have been asked to sign liability waivers placing all the risk on themselves rather than the dealers. And in episodes like the one involving the Causeys, some dealers are allowing trades under the cash-for-clunkers banner only to retract them later, leaving both dealers and consumers pointing fingers in agitated blame.
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