AUGUSTA, Maine — Attorney General Janet T. Mills has sued a Bangor used car dealer in Penobscot County Superior Court for unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with the promotion and sale of used cars.
The complaint, filed Jan. 31, alleged that Glenn A. Geiser Jr., 48, of Brewer and his dealerships, Bangor Car Care Inc., Bumper2Bumper Inc. and My Maine Ride, targeted consumers with poor credit who needed financing, pressured them to buy cars that were not roadworthy and did not respond to customer complaints, according to a press release issued Friday by Mills’ office.
The Consumer Protection Division of Mills’ office received 86 complaints in the last 13 months about My Maine Ride, 159 complaints about Bumper2Bumper since 2011, and 539 complaints about Bangor Car Care since 2003.
The state is seeking civil penalties, which could run as high as $10,000 for each violation; a permanent injunction to bar Geiser and any entity in which he has an ownership interest from promoting, selling and/or financing used cars; and reimbursement of the cost of the litigation, including attorney and expert witness fees.
“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.”
In addition to the civil complaint, Geiser has been charged in Penobscot County with 80 counts of using counterfeit inspection stickers, a Class E crime. He is scheduled to be tried April 9 at the Penobscot Judicial Center. If convicted, Geiser faces up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 on each count.
The Maine secretary of state’s office is seeking to have Geiser’s license to sell cars suspended. He is opposing the suspension. A hearing on the matter will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Airport Mall in Bangor. The hearing is open to the public.
A letter from Garry R. Hinkley, director of the vehicle services division, dated Dec. 20, 2013, notified Geiser that his used car dealer license was suspended for 180 days effective Jan. 6. The suspension is on hold pending the outcome of the hearing, according to the secretary of state’s office.
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.”
The lawsuit is the result of an investigation that began in 2011, under Mills’ predecessor, William Schneider, according to Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.
Geiser was general manager of Bangor Car Care and later owner and general manager of Bumper2Bumper and My Maine Ride, according to the complaint. Bumper2Bumper was dissolved as a corporation Aug. 13, 2013, and Bangor Car Care was dissolved two days later.
My Maine Ride is a corporation with a principal location at 170 Washington St. in Bangor, the complaint said. A Lewiston location is closed.
Typically, consumers at Geiser’s businesses were shown cars that failed to pass inspection so they could not be taken out for a test drive, Mills said in the press release. Known mechanical defects were not disclosed to the consumer, 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 had 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 press release. Many cars broke down or developed serious mechanical problems 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 press 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 at www.maine.gov/ag/consumer or call 800-436-2131.
Maine State Police and the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles assisted with the attorney general’s investigation.