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By WILLIAM BENDER
From The Philadelphia Daily News
At Springfield Ford in Delaware County, “You ALWAYS get more for your dollar,” the car dealer claims on its Web site.
That’s unless, according to U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan, you happen to be black.
The Justice Department announced yesterday that Springfield Ford, and Pacifico Ford in Philadelphia, have agreed to pay a combined $450,000 to African-American customers to whom they allegedly charged higher interest rates on car loans because of their race.
“This type of practice is a serious violation of the law and an insult to the consumer who is entitled to conduct business without fear of discrimination,” Meehan said in a statement, calling the practice “intolerable.”
The civil complaints filed in Philadelphia federal court allege that the dealerships engaged in discriminatory lending practices between 1999 and 2002 by jacking up the interest rate for black customers — a violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
The differences in the interest-rate markup – a finance charge dealers add to the rate set by the lender – “cannot be explained fully by factors unrelated to race, such as differences in the consumers’ creditworthiness or by differences in the down-payment amounts provided by consumers,” according to the complaints.
Learn more about Pennsylvania lemon law.
“Racial discrimination in lending is wrong and will not be tolerated,” Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.
Representatives for Springfield Ford, located on Baltimore Pike, and Pacifico Ford, on Essington Avenue in Southwest Philadelphia, could not be reached for comment last night. Both companies have agreed to change their markup policy to prevent future discrimination, the department said.
The state attorney general’s office is pursuing separate agreements with the dealerships.