Auto Dealer Cited For Selling "eddie Bauer" Look-a-likes

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that a Rockland County auto dealer will pay restitution and civil penalties to settle allegations that it deceived consumers into thinking they were purchasing top-of-the-line sports utility vehicles. The settlement also covers allegations of false advertising by the dealership.

Bill Kolb Jr. Ford falsely advertised and sold "EB2000" model Ford Expeditions that copied the outwardly distinctive characteristics of the "Eddie Bauer" version without providing many other features which make the model desirable.

"My office is aggressively combating the many unscrupulous business tactics of auto dealers throughout the state," Spitzer said. "Dubious practices such as those discovered in this case continue to blemish the reputation of auto dealers everywhere."

The Eddie Bauer model is generally considered to be the "top-of-the-line" version of the Ford Expedition, with many standard features that are expensive options on the XL and XLT models. These include: a larger engine, leather interior, fog lamps, a captain's chair, tan trim on the doors and fenders, a higher quality sound system, illuminated running boards, and the Eddie Bauer logo affixed to the seats, fender, and tailgate.

Since 1999, Bill Kolb Jr. Ford has been advertising and selling Ford Expeditions under the name "EB 2000." These vehicles had certain dealer add-ons, such a tan striping scheme, tan wheel fender flares and an EB2000 logo, which mimicked the actual Eddie Bauer model manufactured by Ford. However, these vehicles were not authentic Eddie Bauer models and lacked many features of the authentic version.

In settling the case, Bill Kolb Jr. Ford agreed to cease marketing and selling "EB2000" or "EB2001" Expeditions.

Spitzer's office also forced Kolb to discontinue other objectionable advertising practices including:
  • Promising a "30 Day Money Back Guarantee" which was contradicted in fine print by restrictions on the mileage of the vehicle and the fact that the guarantee would only be given as a credit toward the purchase of another vehicle;
  • Advertising specific "deep discount" prices in large, bold print without adequately disclosing that an additional $5,000 down payment is required;
  • Comparing sale prices of used cars to the original manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the vehicles when they were new; and
  • Advertising used vehicles for sale at specific prices in a manner that left consumers unable to identify the specific vehicles that were the subject of the advertised offer.

Bill Kolb Jr. Ford also will pay restitution to consumers who were duped into buying EB2000 Expeditions and will pay $10,000 to the state in civil penalties and costs.

Individuals with complaints about auto dealers are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Doris K. Morin of the Westchester Regional Office under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In Charge Gary Brown.


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