Scam of the day – March 28, 2015 – FTC and 32 law enforcement agencies crackdown on automobile sale and leasing fraud

The FTC recently announced the results of the results of Operation Ruse Control, a joint enterprise with law enforcement agencies in both the United States and Canada that resulted in 252 enforcement actions involving scams related to buying or leasing an automobile.  In six cases alone, the FTC obtained monetary judgments of more than 2.6 million dollars.  Two of the cases involve FTC actions under new authority over automobile dealers pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act.  These two cases against National Payment Network, Inc. (NPN) of California and Matt Blanc Inc.  of New Jersey jointly with its companion dealership, Glassboro Imports, LLC involve deceptive or misleading add-ons, which are additional charges added to the sales or lease price for things such as extended warranties, guaranteed automobile protection (GAP insurance), credit life insurance, road service, theft protection and undercoating.  As a result of consent decrees in these cases,  NPN has agreed to refund more than 1.5 million dollars to its customers and waive $949,000 in fees to current customers while Matt Blatt will be paying the FTC $184,000.  Other cases brought by the FTC involving deceptive advertising of sales an lease terms were brought and settled with Cory Fairbanks Mazda of Florida, Jim Burke Nissan of Alabama and Ross Nissan of California.  In those cases, seemingly favorable terms were effectively cancelled out by disclaimers found in the fine print.

TIPS

With the exception of the purchase or renting of a home, the purchase or leasing of a car is most often a consumer’s largest purchase and is fertile ground for scams and deceptive sales and leasing techniques, many of which involve terms found in the fine print of the actual contracts that contradict the customer’s  impression based on the advertising.  Rarely, if ever, is there anything fine in fine print so it is critical that you never sign a contract until you fully understand all of the terms in the contract.  Never let a salesperson lure you into signing a sales contract or lease without having read and understood every item in the contract.  The FTC has some good information about what to look for when buying or leasing an automobile, which you can find at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2015/03/operation-ruse-control-6-tips-if-cars-are-your-alley and http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/buying-owning-car and http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0143-are-car-ads-taking-you-ride and http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/add-auto-finance-plan-gets-d-deception