60 posts categorized "Consumer Law"

November 20, 2011

Car Dealer Rip-Offs In A Nutshell!

Salesman 003
New car 001Okay, so you're ready to buy or lease that shiny new or used car.  You've picked it out, the car is a beaut!  It's a great fit for your image, your needs, your life.  But beware! Amid all of that excitement lurks the possibility that you are getting ripped off by the dealer. 


Used cars 001In this post I'm going to briefly describe the many, many, many ways that an unscrupulous dealer can rip you off.  Call or e-mail me if you think you've been a victim of one or more of these scams and we will explore your situation together (consultations are, of course, free!).  You may have legal rights and it is my job to empower you with knowledge of those rights and remedies!!!

Odometer Fraud

Odometer fraud 001Misdisclosure of odometer accuracy and misrepresentation of a vehicle's mileage.  This can happen in a number of ways including, but not limited to: Rolling back the mileage, disconnecting the odometer while the car is being driven by executives, building cars with odometers that overstate mileage which decreases the time the vehicle is under warranty and increasing mileage penalties on leased vehicles.  Click here for further info on odometer fraud

Undisclosed Prior Damage -- Decreased Market Value!

Salvage 004 Used car after 001You have rights if you find out that you were not told about prior damage to your car.  It could have been damaged by weather conditions (floods, hurricanes, storms, etc.), a prior wreck or if it had been stolen and stripped. (Just look at these dramatic before and after pictures!!!)

Seriously, though, even if a car seems to be mechanically sound and cosmetically clean, its prior damage and/or wreck history means that its true market value has been dramatically decreased!

Undisclosed Prior History: Mechanical Problems, Lemon Laundering

Dealers may fail to disclose documented histories of mechanical problems.  Unconscionable you say?  You're right but conscience isn't always foremost on the car salesman's mind!  You have rights!!

Lemon 001What is Lemon Laundering? Well, there is widespread consumer use of their state's lemon laws. Manufacturers repurchase thousands of lemons every year.  Lemon Laundering is the resale of these defective used cars to unsuspecting consumers without disclosure of their prior history.  Again, unconscionable? Again, yes.  Again, you have rights.

Not Telling You Who Owned Your Car or How Your Car Was Utilized! (Bad!!!)

Little old lady Police car 002Oh, so your new car was owned by a Little Old Lady From Pasadena?  Maybe.  What if you weren't told that your car actually one of the following scenarios?            
    Multiple prior owners, former rental car, police car, part of a fleet of leased cars, repossessed, used for driver's education training or former taxi cab?  Hmm, if any of these scenarios applies was not disclosed to you, then you've got rights and you need to contact me (see below).

As-Is -- Really?

Fraud 002

An "As-is" sticker in the window or even on your sales contract is not an absolute defense for fraud!!!  A seller cannot use warranty disclaimers as a shield against claims of fraud or misrepresentation arising from their actions toward you. If you've been defrauded, you have rights!

What You May Be Entitled To

When you've been defrauded, you may be entitled to the following:

  • Return the car and get a full refund of your down payment, payments already made (rescission)
  • Damages
  • Attorneys fees
  • Punitive damages

Justice For You

JusticeIf you or a family member or close friend has been ripped off (or you suspect has been ripped off) by an unscrupulous car dealer or salesperson, then you have rights that should be explored. 

Contact me to evaluate your concerns and provide you with the utmost in legal guidance.


Contact Attorney Lowell Steiger to Discuss Your Legal Rights

Your Consultation is FREE

            (323) 852-1100      

            (877) 487-8221      

e-mail [email protected]

December 15, 2010

Brown Announces $13 Million Settlement With DIRECTV, Restitution to Customers

Ag brown Directv logo

Brown vs. Directv

Consumer Victory!!!

The Press Release says it all:

SAN DIEGO - Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a $13 million settlement with DIRECTV plus restitution for customers who were subjected to the satellite TV company's misleading sales and marketing practices.

"DIRECTV won customers by offering special deals with hidden costs, and also extended customers' contracts without telling them," Brown said. "With this settlement, DIRECTV will reimburse customers and change its sales and advertising practices to comply with the law."

The settlement by Brown and 48 other state attorneys general was filed today in San Diego Superior Court. It requires DIRECTV to make full restitution to all victims. In addition, the company is required to pay $13.25 million to the 49 states and the District of Columbia in civil penalties and costs, and obey state laws.

DIRECTV, based in El Segundo, has more than 18 million subscribers nationwide with more than one million in California.

The multi-state investigation found the company engaged in practices that misled customers about how much they would be required to pay and what kind of programming they could expect. The investigation established that DIRECTV:

- Extended contracts without customers' knowledge. When the company serviced faulty DIRECTV equipment, its representative asked customers to sign what appeared to be service documents. Customers later learned that their signatures had extended their contacts for another two years.

- Failed to deliver promised channels. In its promotions, the company promised potential subscribers access to sports channels and local stations, but subscribers discovered that some of the promised programming was not available.

- Change the terms of promotions. The company offered cash-back deals and free trials but did not disclose key details, and some customers ended up paying more than expected. For example, DIRECTV offered a two-year deal at $29.99 a month (compared to a typical charge of $53.99 or $63.99) but did not disclose that the second year was at the regular price.

As part of today's settlement, DIRECTV agreed to clearly state all costs, services offered, length of contracts and terms of cancellations and refunds.

Brown's office is reviewing the 1,136 complaints it has received about DIRECTV to determine which customers are entitled to restitution. Complaints about conduct that occurred after January 1, 2007 are eligible for restitution. Californians who believe they were misled by DIRECTV have until June 9 to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office at http://ag.ca.gov/consumers/general.php.

July 09, 2010

Do I Need An Estate Plan? Cute Video

Hi Folks,

I thought I'd like to use a bit of creativity and make a short, cute and informative video pointing out a couple of pluses when it comes to why we all need an estate plan. 

Naturally, I'm telling you this because we, at the Law Office of Lowell Steiger, provide this necessary legal service for you.

For a Free Consultation Call

Attorney Lowell Steiger

We'll Advise You on Your Plan

Create (as needed) Your




323) 852-1100

[email protected]

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

June 03, 2010

Estate Planning: Important to You and Your Loved Ones


Estate planning ensures that:
  • Final property wishes are honored
  • Health care issues are clarified and honored
  • Loved ones are provided for in your absence
Estate planning resolves these (and other) legal questions when someone dies:
  • State of their financial affairs
  • Who gets what?
  • Guardianship of minor children
  • How much tax will need to be paid to transfer property
  • Appropriate funeral arrangements
What An Estate Planning Attorney Does For You

We will help you plan your estate.  At the Law Offices of Lowell Steiger, we can advise you and then prepare, your legal documents:
  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Domestic Partnership Agreements
  • All other estate related papers
Prior to doing so, we will meet with you to discuss and advise as to:
  • Extent of your estate wishes
  • Preparation of your properties and estate to make it easy on your loved ones to manage with little or no interruption from
    • Government Agencies
    • Courts
    • Tedious Probate System
  • Preparing estate against various tax issues that spring up during life and upon death

Protect Your Assets

Asset Protection: What is asset protection? Asset protection planning involves figuring out and applying a lawful series of techniques that protect your assets from claims of future creditors. The techniques are designed to deter potential creditors from going after you, and frustrate them if they do, generally by making it difficult or impossible for future creditors to grab hold of your assets or collect judgments against you.

In cases where significant sums are involved, asset protection planning often includes setting up a series of:

  • Trusts
  • Partnerships
  • Off-Shore Entities
Contact me for more information.

Probate is a court involved process that determines how property, owned by someone who has passed away, will be distributed to the proper beneficiaries or heirs.

Avoiding Probate

The probate process is tedious and complicated and can easily be avoided through proper estate planning and trusts.

If Probate Is Unavoidable
We Will Help You Probate An Estate

If you or a family member needs assistance probating an estate or accessing a deceased person's financial affairs, we will help you here at the Law Office of Lowell Steiger.

Call us now for a free consultation!
Finally, and most importantly, please contact me if you have any legal issues whatsoever.  If it's not something that my office ordinarily handles, I will be delighted to refer you to a well-qualified attorney who does.

At the risk of repeating myself, I'm signing off with my warmest regards to you.

Lowell Steiger

Law Office of Lowell Steiger
8383 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 830
Beverly Hills, California 90211
Law Office of Lowell Steiger

Contact Me By E-mail

May 13, 2010

Digital Copiers Loaded With Secrets

Identity theft      I was absolutely blown away by the CBS News Report on the danger of digital copy machines to your security. Digital copy machines manufactured after 2002 all contain hard drives which take a picture of every document that they scan, print, copy and e-mail.  When the machine is put on the used copier market, it can be purchased by anyone.  The data on the hard drive can be read by generic software which is found free on the Internet.  

    The data can include anything from copies of a grocery list to your social security number and sensitive medical information.  Encryption software is available and can be installed on these copiers but if the users don't know that (1) there is a hard drive and (2) the software is available, how can they protect the unwary public from this risk of identity theft?

    Watch this CBS Investigative story.  You'll be as blown away as I was.

Related articles:

Buffalo News: Police Data on Copiers Causes City to Scramble

Buffalo News: Scrub Copiers' Memories Before Discarding

Legal Holds and Trigger Events Blog: Copier Hard Drives Pose Preservation Problem

PR Log: How to Protect Your Photocopier Hard Drive

Questions? Concerns? 

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100

[email protected]

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"

February 28, 2010

Tax Consequences for Cancellation of Debt Income

Guest Blogger David N. Stonehill, Attorney at Law

David Stonehill  What follows is a blog post written by my colleague,David N. Stonehill, Tax and Real Estate Attorney.  I'm @HRMargo on twitter. As an HR and Social Media Consultant in his firm, I see sad stories like this every day.  Employees are drowning in debt, particularly after the recession of 2009.  Below is a case study, and a real story about one of Stonehill's clients.  He has since helped her out of this awful jam, but the fact remains clear.  Our tax code has to change.  It is my hope that those who read this post will become as outraged as we did.  There is a way out.  You are not alone.  As you read this with an open heart, and mind, remember there are people out there, good people who can and will help you.  Now, a few words from David Stonehill. 

I have a client who is a pensioner living in rural Vermont. She's 70 years young, lives by herself in a modest home, and drives a beat up pickup truck. God bless her.

And she had about $40,000 of credit card debt. She hired one of those debt consolidators, who actually did a pretty good job of negotiating her debt in half.  They stretched the payments over a couple years.

The problem is that this creates cancellation of debt ("COD") income. One creditor sent her Form 1099-C to report about $5,000 of COD income for 2007. She didn't know what to do with it, so she squirreled it away. The IRS assessed her about $1,000 for failure to report the income. She lost several nights sleep over this, because she did not have the money to pay the assessment.

Another creditor sent her a Form 1099-C in 2008. Yet another was received for 2009. Who knows if COD income will be reported in 2010. She has absolutely no control if and when a lender issues Form 1099-C.

The fix so far required: 1) a petition for reassessment for 2007, 2) an amendment of her 2008 tax return and 3) the filing of long Form 1040 for 2009. I got the 2007 assessment reversed, and avoided an assessment for 2008.

The taxation of COD income demonstrates an utter failure of our federal tax code and treasury regulations. Without question, she can exclude COD income, because she is broke ("insolvent" in IRS-speak). Between social security and her pension, she doesn't even make $20,000 a year. Yet she cannot file a simple, short form 1040-A!

The Taxpayer Advocate has pointed out this problem to Congress. While there is merit to taxing COD income in complicated financial transactions, pensioners such as my client should be exempt. This is a senseless trap for the unwary.  My client shouldn't have to hire a tax lawyer to show the IRS why her COD income should be excluded anyway.

For a good read, here's a link to the Taxpayer Advocate's 2008 report to Congress regarding the shortcomings of COD income taxation. I am not going to hold my breath waiting for the recommended changes, but I will work tirelessly on behalf of those who are dazed and confused by the maze of our tax system.  For more information, contact us www.1099advisor.com  Please feel free to reach us anytime at 877-IRS-1099.


November 19, 2009

Rules of Debt Collection - Don't Let 'Em Walk All Over You!

Fdcpa cover page In this tough economy, more and more people are finding themselves with debt problems. And things gets worse when debt collectors get aggressive. Everyone should know their rights – what is considered “fair debt collection” as defined by the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA.

FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from being abusive. Note that FDCPA regulates debt collectors who work for collection agencies and does not cover debt collectors who work for the original creditor (the company that originally lent you the money).

We’d like to think that most bill collectors act professionally and follow the law when contacting you. However there are some overeager ones who go too far.

Here’s What Debt Collectors CANNOT DO

 Nasty debt collector Misinformation Debtor's prison

1.    CAN’T call you repeatedly or at an unreasonable time (before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.)

2.    CAN’T use obscenity, profanity or threaten violence.

3.    CAN’T call you without identifying themselves as bill collectors.

4.    CAN’T call you at work if your employer doesn’t allow it.

5.    CAN’T claim to be an attorney if they are not!

6.    CAN’T claim you owe more money than you actually do.

7.    CAN’T tell you that you’ll go to jail or that your property will be seized.  Remember, there is no such thing as Debtor's Prison.

8.    CAN’T add unauthorized interest, fees or charges.

9.    CAN’T call third parties EXCEPT your attorney, a credit bureau or the original creditor to find your whereabouts. And unless you have asked the debt collector in writing to stop contacting you (more on this below), they can also contact your spouse, your parents (if you are a minor) and co-debtors.

If a Debt Collector Violates the FDCPA Rules, Here’s What YOU CAN DO

1.    Demand they Stop: under FDCPA rules, you can write to the collection agency to tell them to stop all Say no to debt collection calls communications with you. After that, they cannot contact you for any reasons except to tell you that collection efforts have ended or that they intend to sue you.

2.    Document their Violations: start a log; write down what happened, when and who witnessed it. It’s not a bad idea to have another person present or on the phone during future communications with the collector. Thinking about recording the phone conversations? – be careful as it is illegal in some states, such as California, to record phone conversations without the knowledge of the other person.

3.    File a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: the FTC oversees collections agencies. https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/. Include the collection agency’s name, address, name of the collector, dates and times of conversations, names of any witnesses, include copies of all offending letters you receive, and a copy of any offending voicemails or messages.


Send the complaint to state agencies. Send a copy of your complaint to the state agency that regulates collection agencies for the state where the agency is located. To find the agency, call information in that state's capital city or check the state's website.

Send the complaint to the creditor and collection agency. Finally, send a copy of the FTC complaint to the original creditor and the collection agency. The original creditor may be concerned about its own liability and offer to cancel the debt.

Judge's gavel4.    SUE THE DEBT COLLECTOR: If there are repeated violations and you can document them, then suing may be a good idea. But if the violations were merely annoying, don’t waste your time. For example, if the collector called you three times in one day, but never again, you don’t have a case.

You can sue in Small Claims Court or hire a lawyer. If you win, the other side may be required to pay your attorney’s fees and/or court costs.

Questions? Concerns?

For a Free Consultation please contact Attorney Lowell Steiger immediately at

(323) 852-1100

[email protected]

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect and Understanding That You Deserve"  

*Since my law practice is based in California, I'm addressing California law.  Your state's laws may vary so please consult an attorney for clarification of your state's law as it applies to you!

November 03, 2009

Power Windows: Danger to Children

Child power window     This morning I read a very common-sense article in the New York Times entitled Power Windows Pose Great Risk to Children, Says Consumer Group.  It piqued my interest so I decided to look a little further into the issue.

    It makes logical sense that, absent safety precautions, power windows are potentially quite dangerous.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates 1,995 power window related injuries (mostly minor) and six deaths per year.  Janette Fennell, president of KidsAndCars.org disputes these numbers saying that her phone and Internet surveys indicate that there have been about 13.6 million power window related injuries over an unspecified period of time.  Read their Press_Release.


    The NHTSA has imposed two requirements to make power windows safer:

    1.    All passenger vehicles must have recessed power switches by October 1, 2008

    2.    All power windows may be closed only by pulling up on a switch by October 1, 2010

    So, what kinds of injuries actually occur from power-window related accidents?  According to the NHTSA, 68% of the incidents result in fractures or crushed body parts.  Other injuries include bruising, dislocation, laceration, and strain or sprain.  Most frightening, though, are the deaths among children when their head, neck, or midsection have been trapped in the window for five or more minutes and resuscitation was impossible.  When there are multiple children in a car, those witnessing the injury are more likely to panic and call for help than try to operate the power window!

    Consumer Reports published a very informative piece entitled Which Power Window Switches Are Safer?  The article contains a well-produced video discussing one family's tragedy and further depicting and discussing three different types of power-window switches.

    The Consumer Reports article tells you what you can do:

Never leave children alone in a car or the keys in the car when kids are nearby. Pay close attention to the design and location of window switches when shopping for a new car. Here’s a basic rundown for the vehicles we’ve reviewed:

Horizontal rocker switches

Saturn rocket switch
Rocker switches (inherently risky) move the glass up when you press one end of the switch, down when you press the other.  Most vehicles from Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, GMC, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac, and the Saturn Ion.

Horizontal toggle switches

Toggle switch power window
Toggle switches (also inherently risky) work when pushed forward or pulled back. Some vehicles from Chrysler including the Dodge Neon, Stratus, and Intrepid, and Dodge trucks.

Lever switches, the safer type

Lever switch power window
The lever switch, is safer because it makes it harder to raise the window accidentally. Lever switches must be pulled up to raise the glass. They generally have not been implicated in fatal injuries, according to KIDS AND CARS.  Acura, Audi, BMW, Chrysler Pacifica, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, most Isuzu models, Jaguar, Kia, Lexus, most Mazda models, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Saturn L and Vue, current Saab models, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo.
I hope that this article has been helpful and informative.

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an accident, please contact me immediately at

(323) 852-1100

[email protected]

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"   

October 02, 2009

Are You Entitled to Compensation For Your Car's Loss in Value After an Accident?

Before-After-3     What happens when you're in an accident, it's the other driver's fault, their insurance fixes your car but now your car is worth less than it was before the accident?  In legal terms, this decrease in value is called Diminution in Value.  

    The vehicle looks okay but disclosing that it was in an accident will certainly decrease the amount a buyer is willing to pay.  So, it begs the question "Can I ask to be paid for this decrease in my vehicle's value?"  

    The answer is a qualified "yes."  The law in the State of California (it may be different in different states so please consult your attorney) is "When the damaged property cannot be completely repaired to its pre-accident state, the measure of damages is the difference between its value before the injury and its value after the repairs have been made, plus the reasonable cost of making the repairs."  This comes from an old case 1946 which is STILL GOOD LAW today! (For reference, Merchant etc. Assn. v. Kellogg E. & D. Co. [28 Cal.2d 594] (1946) 28Cal 2d 594, 600).  

What The Heck Does This Mean?  Can I Be Compensated Or Not?

    Here's what all of this legal mumbo jumbo means:  If the vehicle cannot be restored to its original value (which is almost always the case in a car accident), the owner can collect not only the cost of repairs but the difference between the vehicle's value before the accident and after the repairs were made UNLESS the cost of repairs was greater than the decrease in value.  

Example 1: YES!!! You Can Be Compensated

    Example 1: Say your car was worth $30,000 before the accident and it cost $5,000 to fix it.  But now if you went to sell your car today (after the accident), you could only get $20,000 because of the accident, you're entitled to an additional $5,000 for diminution in value! 

Example 2: NO! You Cannot Be Compensated 

    Example 2: Now let's say your car was worth $30,000 before the accident and it cost the same $5,000 to fix it BUT now if you went to sell your car today (after the accident), you could still get $27,500 for it, you are NOT entitled to any more money.

Asc2     Diminution in value is a question of fact.  This means that you must have objective evidence to prove your car's value before the accident and your car's value after the accident. This can be determined by a qualified appraiser and is an issue that should be discussed with your attorney.   

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an accident, please contact me immediately at

(323) 852-1100

[email protected]

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

September 26, 2009

Choosing to Sue in Small Claims Court: When Is It Appropriate?

Small claims gavel

  Small Claims Court handles civil cases where the plaintiff (person or entity who sues) is asking for $7,500 or less from the defendant (person or entity being sued). Disputes are resolved quickly and inexpensively in Small Claims Court.*  

    Although you can ask a lawyer’s advice before or after the court hearing, in California you are not allowed to have a lawyer represent you at the Small Claims Court Hearing.

    The hearing is relatively informal: no lawyers, no rules of evidence, no juries.  A judge, or a judge pro tem, will hear and decide your case.

Why Do I Occasionally Advise Clients To Go To Small Claims Court?

    Why my interest in telling you about Small Claims Court?  Most of the cases that I handle are personal injury cases.  If it’s a small case, then I often recommend that instead of using my services to litigate the matter then you, the client, might be better served by taking it to Small Claims Court.  

    When I handle a case, it may take months or years to get resolved.  This makes practical sense when the case value exceeds the maximum, jurisdictional amount that you are allowed to sue for in Small Claims Court. However, for cases valued at less than $7,500 (in California), going to Small Claims Court might bring you to resolution within a much shorter period of time while keeping your costs to a minimum.

Wondering (aka Worrying) About How To Present Your Case?

    I’ve thought about this over and over.  My style of representation is based largely in part on my wanting to fix things for my clients, to make things better for you, to get justice for you.  The last thing that I want you to do is struggle or stress out over your case.  

    Small claims court is appropriate for cases of all kinds, not only personal injury. For example, clients just like you have come to me with a myriad of legal issues for which I've directed them to Small Claims Court: 

  • Landlord will not return your security deposit
  • You bought something that doesn't work and the store won't fix it
  • You lent money to someone who refuses to pay you back
  • Tenant damaged your property and their security deposit won't cover the repairs
  • You've performed services and the customer refuses to pay 
  • Your neighbor's dog tore up your screen door
  • and a myriad of other situations

    ...and justice for all

    So, just because a lawyer can’t represent you in Small Claims Court doesn’t mean that the case can’t be prepared for you by a lawyer in a professional manner.  After all, you are in court to win your case and want to persuade the judge that your position is the winning position . 

Small Claims Package

Legal justice

    At your request, and for a much lower fee than the 1/3 to 40% that I charge to handle your case, we will prepare a Small Claims Package which will include a professionally prepared brief, exhibits (color photos, relevant medical records and bills, witness statements, property damage bills, etc.), help you fill out the proper Judicial Council Forms and get them filed with the court, pay the Court Fees, find the proper courthouse (venue) for your case to be heard and get the defendant(s) served. We will even subpoena records and witnesses, if necessary.  I, or another lawyer on my staff, will prepare you for the court hearing, advise you what to expect in court from the judge, the court clerk, the defendant and then what to do after the judge decides the case.

    I’m a firm believer in doing what’s right for my clients.  

If you, or someone you know, has been injured in an accident, please contact me immediately at

(323) 852-1100

[email protected]

Skype (with or without video): Lowell_Steiger

"Treated With the Respect That You Deserve"

*The facts and figures in this posting are based on small claims cases brought in California.  Monetary figures and other rules will likely vary depending on what state you are in.  Check your local and state rules for specifics that will be applicable to you!!!

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