Federal Odometer Act Minimum Damages Increased to $10,000
Violations of the federal Odometer Act can now lead to private remedies of the greater of treble damages or $10,000. This change was enacted by Pub. L. No. 112-141 (July 6, 2012), effective on October 1, 2012. Prior to that, the statute had specified minimum damages as $1500, although by federal regulation that amount had been increased by an inflation adjustment. For violations after December 21, 2010, the statutory damages amount had already been increased from $2000 to $3000. For an Odometer Act violation to be actionable, the consumer must show the defendant’s intent to defraud.
Common Odometer Act violations include tampering with an odometer and disclosing inaccurate mileage information on a vehicle’s title transfer document. Other violations include a seller’s false statement to the consumer in making the disclosures on the title transfer document—e.g. oral misrepresentations or wrong odometer information found on other sales documents.
The Odometer Act also has additional requirements as to information to be disclosed on the title transfer documents and as to both transferor and transferee signing the documents—dealers often violate this signature requirement. Courts are split whether such violations require an intent to defraud as to the vehicle’s mileage, or can be remedied where the seller has intent to defraud as to other aspects of the sale. If the latter, failure to obtain the consumer’s signature can lead to $10,000 minimum damages or treble damages, whichever is greater.
From news articles and NCLC eReports December 2012 #12
Auto Sales and Finance
 See 49 U.S.C. 32710(a).
 See 75 Fed. Reg. 79,978 (Dec. 21, 2010), amending 49 CFR § 578.6(f)(2).
 NCLC, Automobile Fraud § 5.5 (4th ed. 2011).
 Id. ch. 3.