JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A large Jacksonville car dealership, Riverside Chevrolet, is facing more than a dozen complaints from customers who all say the same thing: The dealer is not paying off the loans on their trade-ins. Because of it, the customers' credit scores are ruined.
The I-TEAM has been investigating the complaints this week, and late this afternoon, the Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau issued an alert to warn potential customers. The BBB has also given Riverside Chevrolet an F rating.
UPDATE: Riverside Chevrolet responds
We uncovered that many of the complaints come from active or former members of the military who say they're getting ripped off with serious consequences.
Veteran loses hope for buying home
U.S. Navy veteran Marie Wright went to Riverside Chevrolet on Philips Highway in December to buy her dream car. She used the vehicle she was driving as a trade-in with an agreement that the dealership would pay off the balance.
She began making payments on her brand new car, trying to build her credit as she and her husband were set to buy their first home through a VA loan.
On the day they were set to close on the home they got word they didn't qualify.
"My credit dropped by at least 30 points. My husband’s dropped a little more than that," Wright said.
Their credit scores dropped because of late payments on the car she had traded in.
"So therefore, we didn’t get the house," she said. "We’d put out a picture on Facebook, we got this house."
Embarrassed and frustrated, the couple found out Riverside Chevrolet didn’t pay off the loan on Wright's trade-in as promised, which meant she was delinquent to the bank by three months.
"No one would give me no kind of call, no kind of response, email, nothing," said Wright about the dealership.
Wright said she went and sat at the dealership to get management to give her a pay-off check to give her bank. When she finally got it, she left and realized the check was not good because it wasn't signed.
She went back to Riverside Chevrolet and eventually got a signed check along with a letter from the dealership taking the blame for the late payments. But, Wright said her bank told her it couldn't do anything with the letter -- which meant her family of five is forced to rent a home another year, unable to own one because of bad credit.
Active duty sailor worried about losing security clearance
Ryan Gary is active duty Navy in Jacksonville. He went to Riverside Chevrolet to buy a truck for his family of six. He said he decided to buy there because of the military discount being offered and some perks.
"The experience was a horrible experience," Gary told the I-TEAM.
He claims Riverside Chevrolet tried to add on $2,000 he didn't know about to the final price tag. He said the dealership also promised him a free cruise that he never got.
But just like Marie Wright, he too got a ding on his credit score because his trade-in, a Mercedes worth $29,000, wasn’t paid off.
"It was very frustrating. It was a very stressful three months that I went through trying to get them to pay this car off," he said.
Gary's now worried that his poor credit, created by the failure of the dealership to pay off his trade-in for months, could hurt his security clearance with the military.
"That’s a big deal for me, for anybody," he said. "I feel pretty taken advantage of."
When the I-TEAM asked Gary what his message to others would be, he replied, "Stay away. Stay away from Riverside Chevrolet."
Complaints filed with BBB against Riverside Chevrolet
Since May of 2017, 26 complaints have been filed with the Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau against Riverside Chevrolet.
"Unfortunately they haven’t been in business long and they racked up quite a few complaints. All regarding pretty much the same situation," said Shannon Nelson with the BBB.
Fifteen of those 26 complaints claim the dealership failed to pay off trade-in vehicles, causing credit issues for the customers.
"It seems like mismanagement," said Nelson. "They’re not ending up holding up to their end of the contract that they are signing with the consumers."
According to the BBB, affected customers can try and fix their credit, but they are going to have to advocate on their own behalf.
Nelson said customers need to get all of their documents together and write what’s called a “goodwill letter” to the major credit reporting agencies.
- Equifax: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 1-800-685-1111.
- Experian: P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-0949 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
- TransUnion - P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022 1-800-916-8800.
The Federal Trade Commission also offers step-by-step advice on correcting credit report errors. You can find that here.
State and General Motors looking into Riverside Chevrolet
In a simple search online, you'll find dozens of negative reviews for Riverside Chevrolet, and it's gotten the attention of the Florida agency that regulates dealerships as well as General Motors, Chevrolet's corporate owner.
When the I-TEAM contacted General Motors Company, Senior Manager James Cain emailed us this statement.
“We are aware of the situation and will take appropriate action. I’m afraid that’s (all) we can say at this point.”
We also contacted the the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the agency that regulates dealerships. Deputy Communications Director Alexis Bakofsky stated:
“The department has received three complaints for seven total violations since the dealership was issued its license on October 28, 2016. These complaints are closed and/or settled at this time."
The FLHSMV is asking anyone with a complaint against Riverside Chevrolet to fill out this form and send it the appropriate address listed on the last page.
News4Jax wants to report the dealership's side
For two days, the I-TEAM went to Riverside Chevrolet to get answers from General Manager Damon Ferguson.
"He said that he's (Damon Ferguson) definitely in a meeting and he is willing to talk to you without a problem," the receptionist told us the first day we went.
We waited, but Ferguson never came out to talk to us and never called us.
We went back to Riverside Chevrolet for a second day.
"Sorry to bother you again, but I never heard back from him," the I-TEAM said to the receptionist.
At 9:01 p.m. Thursday, Ferguson sent the I-TEAM the following statement:
At Riverside Chevrolet we are committed to serving our customers and in particular those who serve in our military. While we cannot speak to any individual customers credit or financing situation due to privacy laws we can tell you that every effort is made complete every customer transaction in the most professional manner. If in fact there is any error that has been made on our part we will do everything in our power to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. We regret any unintended consequences that this may have caused."