The Massachusetts attorney general’s office has filed suit against a Haverhill car dealership for allegedly charging Black and Latino customers more for “add-on” products when buying cars.
Jaffarian Volvo Toyota of River Street, however, told WHAV in a statement Monday it denies the allegation and “has never received any complaint from any customers regarding discrimination in its sales, pricing or services.”
Attorney General Maura Healey accused the dealership of “engaging in unfair, deceptive and discriminatory pricing practices” by illegally charging “Black and Hispanic customers on average hundreds of dollars more than white customers for ‘add-on’ products, such as paint protection, GAP insurance and remote starters.”
The suit was filed recently in Essex County Superior Court.
“Purchasing a vehicle is already a significant financial decision for many families and individuals—the last thing they should be worried about is unfairly paying more for a product because of their race or national origin.” said Healey in a statement.
According to the attorney general’s office, “The complaint alleges that the dealership gave staff full discretion to markup the prices of add-on products, and its sales history shows that Jaffarian appeared to charge Black and Hispanic customers, on average, approximately $500 more and $400 more, respectively, for add-on products than similarly situated white customers.” It said, the practice “resulted in more than $170,000 in improper profits for the dealership in a two-year period.”
Jaffarian’s attorney, Christopher J. Marino, said “We emphatically deny the allegations in this lawsuit and have been cooperating fully with the attorney general’s office since they first contacted us. We supplied the attorney general’s office with 36,000 pages of documents about Jaffarian’s add-on products and policies. Jaffarian Volvo Toyota offered to sit down with the Attorney General’s Office to show them, based on the data and documents produced, that there has been no discrimination against anyone based on race, national origin, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation or gender or any other protected class. Jaffarian takes a strong stance against discrimination in all forms.”
Gary Jaffarian added, “Nearly one third (30%) of our dealerships’ 104 employees are Latinx and another 12.5% are African American, Asian or are of other non-white races or ethnicities. Most of these employees purchase their cars through our dealerships. Our dealerships based in Haverhill cater to local consumers from Lawrence and the Merrimack Valley—areas with a significant Latinx population—so we would be hurting ourselves to discriminate in any way.”
John Van Alst, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, said the organization applauds the attorney general’s office for “taking action to stop these disturbing abuses. NCLC research shows that discrimination is widespread in the car sales and finance industry. Stopping discrimination is important to protect both car buyers and the honest dealers who charge people the same price no matter their race or national origin.”