Hike in auto fees hurts consumers

April 23, 2011

Reporter Annie Linskey is right to characterize the last-minute budget deal that allows Maryland auto dealers to double and triple the processing fees they charge buyers as "a giveaway to car dealers" ("Businesses see breaks from General Assembly," April 18).

That giveaway will be a serious blow to Maryland consumers, however, because they will foot the bill for the $100 million windfall the fee hike brings to the state's car dealers next year.

As our economy struggles to emerge from the worst recession of the last 70 years, many low- and moderate-income Marylanders are struggling to afford the cars they need to find jobs, obtain child care and travel to the places that offer products at affordable prices. Raising the processing fee to $200, and then, after three years, to $300, will put yet another strain on the finances of these cash-strapped families.

The General Assembly passed a number of bills this year that benefited consumers, including legislation that eliminates credit checks in most employment decisions, strengthens the notification and mediation rights of homeowners facing foreclosure, gives homeowners better information about the records of home contractors, extends the scope of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act and requires debt settlement companies to register with the state.

But slipping a fee hike into the budget bill behind closed doors was not one of them. Instead, it will only make the lives of struggling families even more difficult.

Marceline White

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition.

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