schuh timberland Feds broaden crackdown on dealership fraud
UPDATED: 3/26/15 3:42 pm ET adds details, reactions
The Federal Trade Commission is broadening its enforcement of car dealerships to crack down on deception and fraud in operations that go beyond advertising.
The FTC is pairing up with 32 enforcement agencies to conduct a and cross border crackdown on deception and fraud in the auto marketplace, the agency said.
It included 252 actions that include charges of deceptive advertising, criminal automotive loan application fraud, odometer fraud and deceptive marketing of car title loans. and 65 in Ontario and British Columbia, Canada, since the FTC last sweep in January 2014. civil charges can carry hefty fines, criminal charges carry the possi bility of prison time. For example, a salesperson charged with conspiracy fraud could face up to 5 years in prison. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
Among the six new actions announced by the FTC are its first auto enforcement cases involving add on products or services. The six new FTC cases include more than $2.6 million in judgments.
The FTC defines add on products as products or service a dealer or other third party adds to the vehicle lease or finance contract. A few examples Rich gave during a media conference call included undercoating, extended service contracts and road service.
Rich said, have told us that in many cases, the prices of add ons are not disclosed adequately or they fail to provide the promised benefits. added, date, the FTC has also brought dozens of other auto related cases involving subprime auto loans; deceptively marketed car title loans; dealer misrepresentations about prices, discounts, who will pay off the amount owed on a trade in vehicle; and scams in which companies promise to reduce auto debt in exchange for a large up front fee, but then take consumers money and do nothing. But, Rich said, NPN did not disclose that the significant fees it charged for the service often cancelled out any real savings. Those enrollment fees averaged $775 on a standard five year auto loan, Rich said.
In a related case, the FTC said that Matt Blatt Inc. and Glassboro Imports, which owns two dealerships in New Jersey, failed to disclose or adequately disclose the fees associated with NPN add on service. The FTC said that many consumers would not actually save any money because of the fees. Under proposed consent orders, they are from misrepresenting that a payment program will save consumers money, unless the amount of savings is greater than the total amount of fees and costs charged in connection with the program. They also cannot claim that the payment programs or their associated fees will repair or otherwise affect a consumer credit record. will refund more than $1.5 million to consumers, and waive another $949,000 in fees to current customers. Matt Blatt also will pay $184,000 to the FTC as part of the settlement, Rich said.
In May, the National Automobile Dealers Association had alerted its members in a memo that the FTC was cracking down on biweekly payment products arranged in the finance and insurance department and that the FTC had issued civil investigative demands to dealers in connection with such products.
NADA spokesman Jared Allen said that none of today FTC announcements are of any systemic problems within the auto industry nor, as the agencies acknowledged, are they reflective of the overwhelming number of honest businesses that make up the nation franchised dealer network.
we have no firsthand knowledge of the facts surrounding these individual cases, we share the agencies view that there is absolutely no place for fraud or de ceptive practices in any part of the business community, he added.
Within 24 hours
NPN said it has agreed to the settlement in connection with the FTC investigation into biweekly products sold by auto dealers.
But in an email to Automotive News, the company also said it disagrees with the FTC allegations and has presented considerable evidence, including consumer satisfaction surveys, training materials for dealership personnel, and other documents that support its position and demonstrate the value of biweekly payment programs, in terms of convenience, late fee avoidance, and faster loan payoff. NPN has decided, however, that a settlement is in the best interest of its customers and auto dealer channel partners. has discontinued the marketing and sale of its biweekly payment programs in 2013 and has not enrolled any new customers since that time, the email statement said. It said existing customers wish to remain enrolled in NPN biweekly payment program at reduced fees. not admit wrongdoing spokesperson for Matt Blatt said, believe that we clearly explained the terms and benefits of the biweekly payment plan to our customers. As part of the settlement, the $184,000 is our portion of the settlement, we did not admit any wrongdoing and we don think we did anything wrong. Buehler, spokeswoman for Matt Blatt, added that the company made the settlement because, felt it would be extremely difficult to defend it and pay for litigation. Blatt has not sold or used the biweekly payment plan for a year and a half now, Buehler said. But it has set up a phone number and email contact address for customers who still have the product who might have questions or concerns about the payment plan program.
She said the ads promoted sales, leases or financing that seemed like good deals until fine print disclaimers canceled it out. In other instances, the disclaimers did not disclose relevant terms, such as required down payments.
we most commonly seeing and keeping bring actions against are what I calling these bait and switch tactics, where the advertisement says one thing but it not the price you offered when you get to the dealership, Rich said. not to say there aren many, many honest dealers in this industry, but we going to keep bringing charges when we see them. Jim Burke Nissan and Cory Fairbanks Mazda are also prohibited from representing that a discount, rebate, bonus, incentive or price is available unless it is available to all consumers. They also must clearly disclose all qualifications and restrictions.