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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2011
Attorney General drives fair car ads through settlements with dealers

OLYMPIA – The Washington Attorney General’s Office says too many car ads violate consumer protection laws. The office announced eight settlements today that are part of its ongoing work to steer dealers toward fair business practices.

“A car may be the most expensive purchase a Washington resident makes,” said Assistant Attorney General Mary Lobdell, of the Consumer Protection Division. “Unfortunately, many car ads are confusing or misleading. Buyers and businesses benefit when dealerships put straightforward advertising in the front seat.”

The settlements address a range of advertising violations. While allegations vary from dealer to dealer, the problems include:

  • Failing to properly disclose the vehicle service documentary fee
  • Advertising “free” merchandise and prizes without adequately disclosing that consumers would need to pay shipping and handling fees
  • Creating a false sense of urgency
  • Misrepresenting the number of vehicles offered for sale
  • Making statements that the dealer could not substantiate through its business records
  • Failing to provide disclosures required by the federal Truth in Lending Act
  • Offering a rebate that is not associated with a manufacturer or failing to disclose material terms in conjunction with a rebate offer
  • Failing to identify vehicles by VIN or plate number
  • Using terms not familiar to the general public
  • Failing to comply with the state’s Prizes and Promotions Act


As is typical with consumer protection settlements, the allegations were resolved with agreements that don’t require the businesses to admit any wrongdoing but impose restrictions on their marketing practices. All the dealers denied any wrongdoing and cooperated with the Attorney General’s Office throughout the course of the investigation.

The cases were mailed today for filing in the following courts and include:

BENTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT

D and S Auto World, Inc., d.b.a. Shafer Motor Company and Auto Plaza USA II (Kennewick): The business agreed to advertise the documentary service fee as provided by law, to comply with other restrictions on its advertising practices and to pay $5,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

FRANKLIN COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT 

Bulldog Motors, LLC , d.b.a. All Star Automotive Group (Pasco): The business agreed to comply with restrictions on its advertising practices and pay $5,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

Grover Dykes Auto Group, Inc., d.b.a. Legacy Ford of Tri-Cities, Legacy Ford of Walla Walla and Legacy Ford of Pasco (Pasco): The dealerships agreed to advertise the documentary service fee as provided by law, to substantiate advertisement claims, to comply with promotional prize laws and other restrictions on its advertising practices and to pay $10,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

L III, Inc., d.b.a. Consumer Auto Liquidators (Airway Heights): The business agreed to advertise the documentary service fee as provided by law, to substantiate its advertisement claims, to comply with promotional prize laws and other restrictions on its advertising practices and to pay $10,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.  It must also refund documentary service fees paid by consumers in which the fee was materially misrepresented or was not disclosed in advertising published since Jan. 1, 2010.

THURSTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT

Haselwood Buick-Pontiac Company, d.b.a. Haselwood Buick Pontiac GMS Truck; West Hills Company d.b.a. West Hills Honda; Heartland Motor Company d.b.a. Heartland Toyota Scion (Bremerton): The dealerships are accused of using deceptive promotions including prize offers and “free” gas vouchers. The business agreed to comply with restrictions on its advertising practices and pay $10,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

Parkway Auto Center, Inc., formerly known as Parkway Chevrolet, Inc. (Deer Park): The dealership is accused of using deceptive promotional prize offers and routinely issuing advertisements that don’t comply with Washington laws. The business agreed to comply with restrictions on its advertising practices and pay $5,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

YAKIMA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT

Bud Clary of Yakima, Inc., d.b.a. Toyota of Yakima and Bud Clary’s Discount Outlet (Yakima): The business agreed to advertise the documentary service fee, to comply with disclosure requirement, to disclose the number of vehicles available at an advertised price and to pay $5,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs. It must also refund documentary service fees paid by consumers who purchased certain vehicles advertised in the Yakima Herald-Republic in November 2009 and February 2010.

Hahn Motor Company (Yakima): The business agreed to advertise the documentary service fee as provided by law and pay $5,000 to reimburse the state for attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

The Attorney General’s website at www.atg.wa.gov/dealers.aspx provides tips to help dealers comply with advertising laws.


Media Contact: Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager, (206) 464-6432, kalexander@atg.wa.gov


 

 

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