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 in today's news release. “Unfortunately, many car ads are confusing or misleading. Buyers and businesses benefit when dealerships put straightforward advertising in the front seat.”
The settlements involve dealerships in Airway Heights, Bremerton, Deer Park, Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Yakima.and 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
The Attorney General’s website provides tips to help dealers comply with advertising laws and to help consumers with car purchases.