In Chavez v. Golden Auto Grp., Inc., No. E078712, 2023 WL 4875175, at *1–2 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 1, 2023), the Court of Appeal found in an unpublished decision that a deferral agreement to pay a downpayment in installments that was not reflected on the RISC violated Rees-Levering.
The ASFA requires car dealers to disclose all the terms of a conditional sale contract in a single document.2 (Raceway Ford Cases (2016) 2 Cal.5th 161, 165-166.) If a conditional sale contract violates this so-called “single document rule,” the contract is “unenforceable and the buyer may recover the total amount paid to the seller.” (Rojas v. Platinum Auto Group, Inc. (2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 997, 1002 (Rojas).) Among other things, the single document “must itemize the purchaser’s downpayment.” (Rojas, supra, 212 Cal.App.4th at p. 1002.) The itemization must state: “(A) The agreed value of the property being traded in. [¶] (B) The prior credit or lease balance, if any, owing on the property being traded in. [¶] (C) The net agreed value of the property being traded in …. [¶] (D) The amount of any portion of the downpayment to be deferred until not later than the due date of the second regularly scheduled installment under the contract …. [¶] (E) The amount of any manufacturer’s rebate …. [¶] (F) The remaining amount paid or to be paid by the buyer as a downpayment. [¶] [AND] (G) The total downpayment ….” (§ 2982, subd. (a)(6).) Chavez and Golden agreed that he would pay a $2,000 downpayment, consisting of $1,000 on the day of the purchase and another $1,000 in three separate installments. The RISC, however, states that Chavez put down a single $2,000 downpayment with no further installments. We agree with the trial court that this is “a clear violation” of the ASFA. As a result, the RISC is unenforceable and Chavez was entitled to recover the amount he paid to Golden ($15,995.50). (See Rojas, supra, 212 Cal.App.4th at p. 1003; see also § 2983, 2983.1, subd. (d).) The trial court therefore properly rescinded the RISC and awarded Chavez $15,995.50 in damages. Appellants argue otherwise for several reasons, none of which has merit. First, appellants argue the three installments Chavez agreed to make do not constitute a “deferred downpayment” under the ASFA. They correctly observe that the ASFA does not define “deferred downpayment,” but provides that a “downpayment” also includes “the amount of any portion of the downpayment the payment of which is deferred until not later than the due date of the second otherwise scheduled payment.” (§ 2981, subd. (g).) Appellants thus argue that the installments do are not “deferred downpayments” under the ASFA—and thus did not need to be itemized in the RISC—because they were due before Chavez began making scheduled payments. Appellants misread section 2981, subdivision (g). The statute defines a “deferred downpayment” as any portion of the downpayment that is deferred at the latest until the purchaser’s second scheduled payment. Chavez’s three downpayment installments were made after the purchase but before his first schedule payment was due. Those installments thus are “deferred downpayments” section 2981, subdivision (g), and had to be itemized on the RISC. (See Rojas, supra, 212 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1002-1003 [plaintiff’s four installments after car purchase were “deferred downpayments” that had to be itemized under section 2982, subdivision (a)(6)]; accord, Munoz v. Express Auto Sales (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1, 5 [same as to two $250 cash payments made within month of sale].) Because they were not, Golden violated the ASFA. Appellants next argue Golden did not violate the ASFA because it “substantially complied” with its requirements. That may be, but substantial compliance cannot preclude appellants’ liability for Golden’s ASFA violation. (Rojas, supra, 212 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1003-1004.) Next, appellants argue they should not be held liable for any ASFA violation because Chavez suffered no harm. But “the purpose and history of [the ASFA] establish that [Chavez] need not have suffered actual damage from [Golden’s] violation of the statute’s disclosure requirements” to recover on his ASFA claim. (Rojas, supra, 212 Cal.App.4th at p. 1005.)