Filed: May 28, 2015
Opinion by Hotten, J.
Holding: An automobile dealer may charge and retain an electronic titling fee and not violate the Credit Grantor Closed End Credit provisions of the Commercial Law Article.
Facts: Appellee alleged an automobile dealer violated the Maryland Closed End Credit Grantor Law (the “CLEC”) of Sections 12-1001 et. seq. of the Commercial Law Article, which “governs closed end credit transactions and regulates interest rates, charges, default and other aspects of a credit transaction,” when it collected an electronic titling fee. The dealer argued that Section 13-601 of the Transportation Article permits an automobile dealer to collect the electronic titling fee upon issuing permanent registration plates. The Court found the provisions of the Commercial Law Article and the Transportation Article to be in conflict with one another.
Analysis: The Court discussed several principles of statutory construction when the plain language of statutes renders a conflict, including (i) an analysis of the context and legislative history of both statutes, (ii) the precedence of a more recent statute over an earlier statute and (iii) the well-established principle that a more specific enactment governs a more general statute.
The Court reviewed a prior case interpreting the CLEC and the General Assembly’s response to the case, concluding that the General Assembly’s goal was to “create certainty in credit contracts” and allow a credit grantor to opt into one particular credit transaction statute while still allowing other Maryland laws and regulations to apply. The Court found the Transportation Article to contain more specific language because it specifically refers to the fee associated with electronic registration while the CLEC refers to “reasonable” fees. Further, the electronic titling fee provision of the Transportation Article was enacted a decade after the CLEC.
The Court found the electronic titling fee to be an exception to CLEC and noted the consistency of this finding with prior interpretations of the Attorney General’s office.