The California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which includes the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR), is reporting that its licensees are being targeted in attempted fraud schemes and is urging awareness and caution. This is an important message for all staff members, but also a good opportunity to remind them that any communication with a licensing agency such as BAR or the Department of Motor Vehicles should be treated seriously. Following good fraud prevention habits will also help prevent important notices such as requests for information from falling in the cracks and leading to license enforcement.
Before you issue those employee expense reimbursement checks for January, don’t forget that the IRS standard mileage reimbursement rate was reduced to 57.5 cents per mile for 2020—down from 58 cents per mile in 2019. The standard IRS mileage rate is usually used as a simpler alternative to calculating the actual reimbursable expenses attributable to an employee’s use of their personal vehicle for work, and such rate is generally presumed to be sufficient to cover the actual expense.
A pair of recent California court decisions have dealt double blows to the enforceability of arbitration agreements in the employment setting. In both cases, the courts found that the agreements were unenforceable because they were procedurally and substantively unconscionable.
In the meantime, the U.S. Supreme Court spoke up in favor of employers, answering the question whether an ambiguous contractual agreement provides the necessary contractual basis to conclude that the parties consent to class arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). It does not.
Auto dealers and manufacturers are major operations that send an enormous amount of complex machines into the stream of commerce every day. While this is a lucrative and important business, it can leave its participants vulnerable to a variety of litigation - a primary form being class action lawsuits. Class actions serve as a powerful tool for plaintiffs against even the most wealthy and powerful defendants. However, class actions come with a number of hurdles for plaintiffs to overcome in bringing a case, and a recent California Supreme Court decision just lowered the bar on one of them.
Plaintiffs alleging that pre-owned vehicles are “lemons” have long vexed new car dealers as the law does not explicitly require manufacturers to indemnify the dealer in these cases. However, a recent Courts of Appeal case may provide relief in some situations, as the Court found that manufacturers step into the shoes of retailers when they offer an express warranty for a used vehicle. Because manufacturers offer such warranties for certified pre-owned vehicles, this case may expand the number of cases in which manufacturers indemnify dealers.
Many California automobile dealers will recall the Court of Appeal’s holding in the 2015 case Benson v. Southern California Auto Sales, Inc. (2015) 239 Cal.App.4th 1198, wherein the court concluded that attorneys’ fees and costs are not awardable to a plaintiff after a dealership offers an appropriate and timely correction in response to a Consumer Legal Remedies Act (“CLRA”) demand. Since then, California courts have continued to identify situations they deem are distinguishable from Benson, chipping away at the dealer-friendly holding in Benson.
There has been a wave of lawsuits and demand letters from plaintiffs claiming that websites that are not accessible to people with disabilities violate the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) in recent years. A number of cases in 2019, including Robles v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC, tested whether the ADA applies to websites. The growing body of case law is making clear that, at least in California and the broader Ninth Circuit, the ADA does apply to at least some websites.
Earlier in 2019, a published decision served as a reminder of the Department of Motor Vehicles’ (“DMV”) licensing board’s dedication to ensuring that license holders comply with applicable law, and refrain from actions it views as abusive of consumers. In Front Line Motor Cars v. Webb, 35 Cal. App. 5th 153 (2019)) the DMV prevailed on appeal in a challenge to its conditional revocation of a used car dealer’s license. The licensing board conditionally revoked the license on the basis that the dealer had violated the Rees Levering Auto Sales Finance Act (“Rees-Levering”) by refusing to return the purchaser’s down payments after it could not obtain financing on conditional sales contracts. The Dealer filed a writ petition challenging the DMV licensing board’s revocation of its license in Orange County Superior Court, lost, and appealed from the denial of its writ.