What law enforcement determined to be deceptive practices associated with dealership advertising of financing options recently surfaced again — this time in New Jersey.
Garden State attorney general Christopher Porrino and the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs announced that a Middlesex County dealership has agreed to pay $136,000 and change the way it does business in order to resolve the division’s consumer fraud investigation of the dealership’s advertising, sales and leasing practices.
Officials said Sansone Hyundai, located on U.S. 1 in Avenel, entered into the settlement to end the division’s investigation of its alleged activities, including failing to disclose the total price for certain advertised vehicles and charging consumers for aftermarket merchandise that was listed at “no charge” on certain leases and sales contracts.
In a consent order with the division, Sansone Hyundai, among other things, agreed to:
—Comply with all applicable state and/or federal laws, rules and regulations, including the Consumer Fraud Act, the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations, the Automotive Sales Regulations and the Consumer Leasing Act
—Not misrepresent the terms and conditions of any financing or lease plan
—Not add and charge for aftermarket merchandise, such as window etch or service contracts, without consumers’ knowledge and/or authorization
—Not represent to consumers that certain dealer-installed options and/or aftermarket merchandise are mandatory when, in fact, they are not
—Not sell consumers aftermarket merchandise that overlaps or provides similar benefits in part to merchandise the consumer has already purchased through the lease or sale transaction
—Accurately reflect in leases the “gross capitalized cost” as required by the consumer leasing act
—Provide consumers with an opportunity to review all leases and/or sales documents and/or aftermarket contracts prior to signing
—Not identify the advertised prices of a motor vehicle by reference to the MSRP sticker, when the vehicle includes an addendum to the MSRP sticker that reflects a higher total price
“Consumers should be able to purchase a new car without having to worry about misinformation and hidden costs,” Porrino said. “This settlement ensures that consumers will receive transparency and honesty from this dealership, as required by law.”
As previously mentioned, Sansone Hyundai also agreed to make a $136,250 settlement payment to the state.
“Dealerships must fully disclose all costs and fees associated with the purchase or lease of a vehicle before consumers sign on the dotted line,” said Steve Lee, director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We will continue to enforce the laws and regulations in place to ensure consumers have the facts they need to make informed decisions.”
The settlement Sansone Hyundai reached included a fine only a fraction of what’s been handed out earlier this year.
For example, the Federal Trade Commission announced back in March that the Sage Automotive Group — which includes nine Los Angeles-based dealerships, its holding and management companies and two individuals — agreed to pay more than $3.6 million in order to settle charges that it used deceptive and unfair sales and financing practices, deceptive advertising and deceptive online reviews.