20-301.  Powers of Commissioner.

(a)        The Commissioner shall promote the interests of the retail buyer of motor vehicles.

(b)        The Commissioner shall have power to prevent unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices and other violations of this Article. Any franchised new motor vehicle dealer who believes that a manufacturer, factory branch, distributor, or distributor branch with whom the dealer holds a currently valid franchise has violated or is currently violating any provision of this Article may file a petition before the Commissioner setting forth the factual and legal basis for such violations. The Commissioner shall promptly forward a copy of the petition to the named manufacturer, factory branch, distributor, or distributor branch requesting a reply to the petition within 30 days. Allowing for sufficient time for the parties to conduct discovery, the Commissioner or his designee shall then hold an evidentiary hearing and render findings of fact and conclusions of law based on the evidence presented. Any parties to a hearing by the Commissioner concerning the establishment or relocating of a new motor vehicle dealer shall have a right of review of the decision in a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to Chapter 150B of the General Statutes.

(c)        The Commissioner shall have the power in hearings arising under this Article to enter scheduling orders and limit the time and scope of discovery; to determine the date, time, and place where hearings are to be held; to subpoena witnesses; to take depositions of witnesses; and to administer oaths.

(d)       The Commissioner may, whenever he shall believe from evidence submitted to him that any person has been or is violating any provision of this Article, in addition to any other remedy, bring an action in the name of the State against that person and any other persons concerned or in any way participating in, or about to participate in practices or acts so in violation, to enjoin any persons from continuing the violations.

(e)        The Commissioner may issue rules and regulations to implement the provisions of this section and to establish procedures related to administrative proceedings commenced under this section.

(f)        In the event that a dealer, who is permitted or required to file a notice, protest, or petition before the Commissioner within a certain period of time in order to adjudicate, enforce, or protect rights afforded the dealer under this Article, voluntarily elects to appeal a policy, determination, or decision of the manufacturer through an appeals board or internal grievance procedure of the manufacturer, or to participate in or refer the matter to mediation, arbitration, or other alternative dispute resolution procedure or process established or endorsed by the manufacturer, the applicable period of time for the dealer to file the notice, protest, or petition before the Commissioner under this Article shall not commence until the manufacturer's appeal board or internal grievance procedure, mediation, arbitration, or appeals process of the manufacturer has been completed and the dealer has received notice in writing of the final decision or result of the procedure or process. Nothing, however, contained in this subsection shall be deemed to require that any dealer exhaust any internal grievance or other alternative dispute process required or established by the manufacturer before seeking redress from the Commissioner as provided in this Article.

(g)        Notwithstanding any other statute, regulation, or rule or the existence of a pending legal or administrative proceeding in any other forum any franchised new motor vehicle dealer or any manufacturer, factory branch, distributor, or distributor branch may elect to file a petition before the Commissioner for resolution of any dispute that may arise with respect to any of the rights or obligations of the dealer or of the manufacturer, factory branch, distributor, or distributor branch related to a franchise or franchise-related form agreement. The Commissioner shall have the authority to apply principles of law, equity, and good faith in determining such matters. The filing of a petition by a dealer or a manufacturer, factory branch, distributor, or distributor branch pursuant to this section shall not preclude the party filing the petition from pursuing any other form of recourse it may have, either before the Commissioner or in another form, including any damages and injunctive relief. The Commissioner shall have the authority to receive and evaluate the facts in the matter of controversy and render a decision by entering an order which shall thereafter become binding and enforceable with respect to the parties, subject to the right of review of the decision in a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to Chapter 150B of the General Statutes.  (1955, c. 1243, s. 17; 1983, c. 704, s. 23; 1991, c. 510, s. 1; 1997-319, s. 2; 1999-335, s. 1; 2011-290, s. 3.)