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Judge Straniere

THE CLAIMANT’S small-claims action sought recovery of a $2,080 deposit paid towards the purchase of a car from defendant. The parties’ contract provided that the remainder of the car’s $5,495 purchase price was to be paid in installments. Defendant, which allegedly sold both cars alternately selected by the claimant, argued that it was not obligated to return any deposit and was only obligated to deliver another car. The court found the claimant was entitled to a refund of her $2,080 down-payment, as well as $50 damages for defendant’s violation of General Business Law §349. The court determined that the parties’ agreement violated GBL §396-t, which governs unlawful practice related to layaway plans. Although the court found that GBL §396-t does not provide for a private right of action, it ruled that a violation of §396-t amounts to a per se deceptive business practice violative of GBL §349. Pursuant to GBL §349(h), a consumer is entitled to recover the greater of either actual damages or $50.

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