New Jersey Auto Dealerships Cited For False Advertising
Attorney General Spitzer today announced a settlement with nine New Jersey auto dealerships that advertise heavily in New York State and which use false, deceptive and misleading claims in their advertisements.
State Supreme Court Justice Louis Barone of Westchester County signed a court order permanently barring Ramsey Auto Group - which operates nine dealerships in Mahwah, Saddle River and Ramsey, New Jersey - from violating New York laws that prohibit false advertising. The consent order also prohibits the dealerships from violating New York's advertising guidelines for auto dealers.
"My office will continue to ensure that New York consumers are protected against false and misleading auto advertising, even if the offending dealership is located out-of-state," Spitzer said. "These efforts level the playing field so that out-of-state auto dealers cannot use false and deceptive advertising to gain a competitive advantage over New York auto dealers."
Spitzer's office cited examples of misleading and deceptive advertisements placed by nine New Jersey dealerships in New York newspapers, including ads that:
- Boldly promoted auto leases for "$0 Down" even though certain payments, mentioned only in a tiny footnote, actually would be due at lease signing;
- Promoted low prices without disclosing that the prices were only for a small group of people who qualified for a specialized rebate such as a "college grad rebate" or a "military rebate";
- Promoted financing at low interest rates but failed to adequately disclose that those rates were restricted to a small percentage of customers with extremely high credit scores;
- Promoted financing at low interest rates but failed to disclose that consumers who accepted these rates would be waiving substantial price rebates;
- Failed to disclose that advertised prices did not include registration, title fees, and taxes;
- Included misleading price comparisons; and
- Included fine print footnotes that contradicted or materially altered the principal message of the advertisements.
In addition to prohibiting false advertising, the court order requires the dealerships to pay $47,000 in civil penalties and costs. Spitzer's office sought a court order after the dealerships violated two prior out-of-court agreements to stop running deceptive ads.
The Ramsey auto dealerships do business as: Ramsey Volvo; Ramsey Infiniti, Inc.; Ramsey Nissan, Inc.; Belle Scarpe, Inc. doing business as Ramsey Saab; RamSub Inc. doing business as Ramsey Subaru; Auto Imports Inc. doing business as Ramsey Mitsubishi; Ramsey Auto Imports of 17, Inc. doing business as Ramsey Chrysler Jeep; RamMaz, Inc. doing business as Ramsey Mazda; and Ramsey Pontiac-GMC, Inc.
This case is the latest in an ongoing effort by Spitzer's office to monitor auto advertising and sales practices throughout the state. Since 1999, Spitzer's office has commenced approximately 200 enforcement actions against auto dealers and their advertising associations across the state.
For tips on purchasing cars and on how to detect deceptive auto advertising, consumers are encouraged to visit the Attorney General's website at www.ag.ny.gov.
Individuals interested in filing a complaint against an auto dealership are directed to call the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Yasmin Rahman Kutty, under the supervision of Gary S. Brown, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Westchester Regional Office.