About The Consumer Law Office of Steve Hofer

Steve Hofer has been practicing consumer law in Indiana for more than 20 years. He is the Indiana State Chairperson of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, a national organization of attorneys striving for fairness in the consumer marketplace. Contact me by phone at 317-662-4529 or via email at hoferlawindyATgmail.com. You can also leave a message through my website at www.hoferlawindy.com.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NACA Attorneys Participate in Money Smart Week Events

I was happy to participate in the Money Smart Week program that was co-sponsored by our frequent collaborator Call for Action and The Indianapolis Star.  Fellow NACA attorney Syed Ali Saeed and I gave consumer education presentations and free consultations with people who signed up to see attorneys at the event.  Thanks to Call for Action, Tim Evans, and Cheryl Koch-Martinez and the staff of the John Boner Neighborhood Center in Indianapolis.

Consumers Sue National Legal Staffing Support, LLC, Kevin P. Mason and K. Stuart Goldberg alleging illegal debt relief operation

The Consumer Law of Steve Hofer, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on behalf of Joseph Castellanos and Bethany Castellanos against National Legal Staffing Support, LLC along with Florida attorneys Kevin P. Mason and K. Stuart Goldberg.  The suit alleges violations of  The Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act (TCFAPA), Telephone Consumer Privacy Act (TCPA) , Indiana Credit Services Organization Act (ICSOA) and Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.  

The allegations of the complaint should be treated as allegations only unless and until proven in a court of law.  The complaint and other filed documents should be publicly available via www.pacer.gov. The court case number is 1:17-CV-00136.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Anti-Yo-Yo Sale Law that Indiana needs.

One of my consumer law attorney friends, Larry Smith, from Chicago, pointed out that Illinois has an interesting law that would help us address a number of yo-yo car sale situations that come up frequently.  Yo-yo sales (sometimes called "gimme back", "spot delivery" or "puppy dog" sales) happen when the car buyer signs paperwork to buy the vehicle, takes the vehicle home, then the dealer says the buyer has to bring the vehicle back because financing fell through or some other problem.

Many car dealers insist that yo-yo sales are completely legal (they almost always use the term "spot delivery"), and most consumer advocates will tell you they are illegal. I can tell you that working on yo-yo sales is a pain in the rear.  This is especially true when most dealers who do yo-yo sales now use a separate document called a "spot delivery rider" or something similar. They claim the document gives them the right to unwind the sale.  Illinois addressed this with a statute that at least prevents the dealer from using the spot delivery as leverage to steal a down payment or a trade in.  And likely the statute prevents the repossession of the vehicle until the deposit and trade-in are returned.   We could use a statute like this in Indiana.

If you have a car dealer try to pull a yo-yo sale on you, as soon as the dealer tells you to bring the car back. call a consumer lawyer. Find one in your area at www.consumeradvocates.org.

815 ILCS 505/2C:

If the furnishing of merchandise, whether under purchase order or a contract of sale, is conditioned on the consumer's providing credit references or having a credit rating acceptable to the seller and the seller rejects the credit application of that consumer, the seller must return to the consumer any down payment, whether such down payment is in the form of money, goods, chattels or otherwise, made under that purchase order or contract and may not retain any part thereof. The retention by the seller of part or all of the down payment, whether such down payment is in the form of money, goods, chattels or otherwise, under those circumstances as a fee for investigating the credit of the consumer or as liquidated damages to cover depreciation of the merchandise which was the subject of the purchase order or contract or for any other purpose is an unlawful practice within the meaning of this Act, whether that fee or those charges are claimed from the down payment, whether such down payment is in the form of money, goods, chattels or otherwise, or made as a separate charge to the consumer.

Hofer Law is Investigating Trucking Industry Wage and Hour Violations

In conjunction with fellow attorney Keith Hagan, we are working on developing a secondary practice area addressing wage and hour violations, especially in the trucking industry.  We have represented a lot of truck drivers in consumer matters. Far too many truck drivers are working long hours for too little pay, and that leads them into a variety of financial and consumer problems. We want to go to the source and make sure these drivers get all the pay to which they are entitled.

The starting point is the actions we currently have going involving CDL schools.  Pay issues involving truck drivers can be complicated. For example, truck drivers are exempt from time and a half overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. On the other hand, over-the-road drivers are supposed to be guaranteed at least minimum wage for all the time they spend out on the road minus specific off the clock periods for meals and sleep. We are investigating potential claims involving unpaid orientation and training time.  We are in the early stages if this effort, and we expect that it will be years before it matures.  Nevertheless, if you feel that you haven't received all the pay that you should have, please call my office at 317-662-4529.  I can only work on cases that have to do with Indiana, but I would like to build up relationships with labor lawyers all over the country.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What's this? Used Car Prices Going DOWN? IN TAX REFUND SEASON?

The Truth About Cars reports that used car prices have gone steadily down this year.  This is especially  noteworthy because the first four months of any new year are usually the strongest for used car lots, because people use their tax refunds to buy used cars.  Typically, car prices edge up during this period to take advantage of higher demand.

Desperate dealers have been lowering credit eligibility guidelines.  You might find that you are eligible for mainstream financing when you think that your credit won't qualify you.  Don't assume that your only option is an overpriced "finance special" or buy-here-pay-here.  Try to stay away from old SUV's especially full-sized SUVs. I have seen some ridiculous prices for really bad SUVs.  Remember, lawyers can rarely help you if you pay a lot of money for a hunk of junk when they tell you up front that there isn't a warranty.  In most states you DON'T have a three-day right to cancel. So have a mechanic check out anything that you want to buy before you are committed.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

How likely is your car to last 200,000 miles? Probably less than 5%

Jalopnik.com posted an article listing the car and truck models most likely to last 200,000 miles (using data from iseecars.com).  The list is instructional.  Only the Ford Expedition and the Toyota Sequoia topped 5% (at 5.7 and 5.6% respectively).  Number 10 on the list was the Honda Odyssey at 2.3%.

What you should take from this is that though cars are lasting longer than ever, less than 1/20 will make it to 200,000 miles, and for most models, it's 1 out of 50.  Think about that when you re considering buying a used vehicle with 150,000 miles.

Look at this nice looking 2007 Ford Expedition on sale for $9795.

It has over 198,000 miles.  The Expedition is model most likely to last for longer than 200,000 miles, but only 5.6% of them do. That means that about 94% of this truck's contemporaries have already bit The dust.  This car is an outlier. It looks good. The conditional probability of a car with 198,000 miles to reach 200,000 is pretty high, but much like a 99 year-old person has a good chance of hitting 100%, the odds of that person hitting 105 are lousy. Similarly,  This 198,000 mile expedition may still only be one expensive repair away from the junk heap.  It may be good for years, but it would be foolish to buy it if you can't afford to fix anything that could go wrong.

A new loaded Ford Expedition might list for close to $50,000. That means that this car only costs about 20% of what a new one costs.  The day you drive a used car off the lot, it might drive as well and have as many features as a new Expedition; but make no mistake about it, on average you likely will have less than 20% of the useful life ahead of you as a new vehicle, and that 20% likely won't be problem-free. You can extend the life of old vehicles through maintenance and repair. This is especially true if you are not an armchair mechanic. If you can fix problems yourself, you can extend the useful life of vehicles a long time. If you have to pay for labor. buying a high mileage vehicle can put you on the fast track to bankruptcy.

If you are in the market for a used car, I suggest that you pay attention to mileage. I suggest that you read reliability ratings, and you find out what are the weakspots for a given model.  You pay to have a mechanic check out the vehicle before you buy it.  I suggest that you don't buy an extended warranty. The extended warranty is likely only going to pay part of the cost of the repair, and it might exclude the very thing that goes wrong.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Right to Refill Printer Cartridges Issue Goes to the US Supreme Court

There is a surprisingly non-partisan case up in the United States Supreme Court right now, Impression Products v Lexmark, the Supreme Court is considering whether Impression Products has the right to refill and sell patented Lexmark inkjet printer cartridges.  The general rule in patents is once a company with a patent sells a covered product, the sold product is not subject to additional restrictions by the patent holder.

At issue is a judicially-crafted narrow exception for products that were sold with an explicit contractual restriction. Lextmark claims that its cartridges are sold with a restriction on resell on the outer shrinkwrap of the cartridges that is supposedly supported by a 20% discount.

The Supreme Court is supposedly having a tough time deciding this case.  They should let me write the opinion.  Here's my rough draft:

"Lexmark's position is complete bullshit. Th. The e shrinkwrapped contract does not represent true assent. The consideration is illusory. Even if the contract not to sell was valid, restrictions on sale of printer cartridges violate the very core principles of our patent system, so to the extent that the exception is valid at all, which may need to be considered in another case, it can't be stretched to this product. "