Vehicle Sales License Forfeiture for Violating An Assurance of Voluntary Compliance

In Commonwealth v. Ted Sopko Auto Sales and Locator, 719 A.2d 1111, 1114 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1998), the Court held that a trial court had authority under the Consumer Protection Law (Act) to order a forfeiture of a vehicle sales license for violating an assurance of voluntary compliance (AVC). The salesperson argued that, under Section 4 of the Board of Vehicles Act, Act of Dec. 22, 1983, P.L. 306, as amended, 63 P.S. 818.4, the Board of Vehicle Manufacturers, Dealers and Salespersons had the exclusive authority to suspend or revoke a license, not a trial court. The Court held that the trial court's authority under the Act did not encroach upon the Board's authority. In doing so, the Court seemed to analogize the AVC to an order of court; however, the Court did not intend to declare unequivocally that an AVC is an order of court. Section 5 of the Act only requires the AVC to be filed with the trial court; the court does not either review or approve the AVC, exercising no judgment. Moreover, under Section 8, the trial court only retains jurisdiction when the AG institutes an enforcement proceeding for a violation of the AVC. Section 8 also clarifies that the trial court has jurisdiction over the enforcement of an AVC, even where, as in Ted Sopko, an administrative board may have the statutory authority to suspend or revoke licenses. However, because the trial court does not have any involvement in the content of the AVC, as the trial court merely functions as a repository for the AVC until such time as enforcement becomes necessary, the Act does not convert the AVC into an order of a court. See Blue Comet Diner v. Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, 905 A.2d 1058, 1064 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2006) (holding a settlement agreement between Commission staff and the employer was not equivalent to a consent order because the Commission never formally approved it, such that it lacked the "imprimatur of the Commissioners").