PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Judy Hodas, Deputy Attorney General
Consumer Protection Unit
Phone: (302) 577-8827
Date: April 5, 2004
MARYLAND AUTO DEALER ENTERS INTO CONSENT ORDER WITH DELAWARE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Advantage Autoland agrees to Halt Deceptive Advertising
(Wilmington, DE): A Stipulation and Consent Order to Cease and Desist, signed late Friday by Judge Mary M. Johnston, requires Elkton auto dealer, Advantage Dodge, Chrysler Plymouth, Inc. and Quality Ford, Inc., which does business under the trade name “Advantage Autoland” (hereinafter "Dealer"), to refrain from advertising which violates Delaware's Consumer Protection laws, announced Attorney General M. Jane Brady.
During September, 2002 and again in late February, 2003, the Dealer placed various advertising in the Wilmington area containing false claims.
The State alleged that Dealer:
· Violated Delaware's Consumer Protection Laws by falsely claiming in its advertising that the Federal Reserve was planning a rate increase and that consumers should act quickly to “Beat the Rate Increase” implying that automobile loan rates would be increasing;
· Misled consumers in the advertisement of financing for automobiles by claiming to have $10 million dollars available to lend at the previous low rate when in fact that figure referred to the value of their inventory and no financing was “secured;”
· Misrepresented that all consumers would be approved for such financing by claiming in their ad that “Everyone’s Approved;”
· Engaged in unlawful trade practices by making false and misleading statements that implied that Dealer was going out of business and that “Every New and Used Vehicle has been Drastically Reduced for Immediate Liquidation;”
In 1999, the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit assisted the Delaware Automobile and Truck Dealers Association (DATDA) with developing voluntary advertising guidelines as part of a system of industry self-regulation in Delaware. A condition of membership in the DATDA requires voluntary adherence to these guidelines. As a result of these guidelines, the quality of advertising in Delaware has improved and the guidelines can serve as a model for other states. According to the DATDA Executive Director, Marlene Lynch-Petrylak, "our Association and its dealer members are highly committed to ethical and "consumer-friendly" business practices, and we have worked closely with the Attorney General's office to achieve this mutual goal. 'Integrity' and 'ethics' are paramount to Delaware dealers, and to our organization."
Under the Stipulation and Consent Order, Dealer agrees to review its advertising practices and refrain from any and all false, misleading, or deceptive advertising.
Attorney General M. Jane Brady commented, "We consistently have made it clear that businesses must deal fairly and honestly with Delaware consumers. These advertising practices hurt individual consumers, other dealerships as well as effect the reputation of the automobile dealer industry. We are pleased that this dealership is coming into compliance."
The Stipulation and Consent Order requires that Dealer pay $24,750 to the Consumer Protection Fund as penalties and costs of the Attorney General's investigation.