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Consumer News Release

For immediate release -- Thursday, March 16, 2000.
Contact Bob Brammer -- 515-281-6699

Miller Warns Car Buyers: Beware of North Carolina Flood-Damaged Cars

Attorney General urges consumers -- and dealers -- to check web-site listing to see if vehicles were damaged in North Carolina floods caused by Hurricane Floyd.

Des Moines-- Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller cautioned Iowans Tuesday that thousands of vehicles were damaged when Hurricane Floyd devastated North Carolina last year -- and that vehicles might make their way to Iowa with no flood-damage indication on the title.

Miller urged Iowans buying vehicles to consult the Iowa Attorney General's Office web site, which has a new link to a list of over 8,000 North Carolina flood-damaged vehicles.

"Hurricane Floyd flooded major sections of North Carolina and the East Coast and damaged thousands of vehicles," Miller said. "Vehicles titled as water- or flood-damaged in North Carolina could be re-sold and transported around the country. North Carolina and Iowa laws require retaining such damage disclosures, but sometimes damage disclosures may disappear when a new title is obtained in some other states," he said.

"We advise people and dealers to make this quick check," he said. "Flood damage reduces the value of a vehicle and may undermine safety. It may cause latent damage that only appears later, in electric systems, for example."

Consumers only need the make, model, year, and vehicle identification number (VIN) to quickly check out a vehicle at the web site, Miller said. Consumers who are not on the 'Net themselves can access the Web at many public libraries. Miller also said consumers may call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926 to check out a vehicle.

Miller applauded North Carolina Attorney General Mike Easley for making the list available to citizens in Iowa and around the nation. Hurricane Floyd drenched North Carolina's eastern coastal plain with 20 inches of rain last September and caused at least 51 deaths. Tens of thousands of homes and vehicles were destroyed or damaged by flood waters, and total damage is thought to exceed $6 billion.

Miller said he hoped dealers would check the North Carolina list before bringing cars into Iowa from other states. The list includes used and new vehicles.

He said his office so far has not received any complaints about flood-damaged cars from the East Coast. "We hope flood-damaged cars don't make their way to Iowa, but there are no guarantees," he said. "Car and truck and SUV buyers need to be on their toes."

Miller encouraged consumers to look for signs of water damage themselves - such as sand or rust under trunk mats or in fender wells - since some flood-damaged vehicles may not appear on the North Carolina list.

Before they purchase a used car, Miller said, consumers always should test drive a vehicle and have it inspected by someone they know and trust, and they should avoid any seller who refuses to permit an independent inspection. He emphasized that almost all used cars are sold "as is," and that consumers do not have a three-day right to cancel purchase of vehicles.

He encouraged people to ask about the history of any vehicle and to obtain title information from county treasurers or the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Miller said that consumers with complaints about purchases of flood-damaged vehicles may file a complaint by writing to the Consumer Protection Division, Hoover State Office Building, Des Moines, IA, 50319.

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