FROM: U.S. FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION
FTC Halts Texas Auto Dealer’s Deceptive Ads
Misleading Ads Claimed $1 Gets Consumers Out of Current Loan or Lease
An auto dealer in suburban Dallas has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it used deceptive ads to promote the sale and lease of its vehicles, including an ad that claimed consumers could get out of their current loan or lease for $1.
According to the complaint, false or deceptive ads from TXVT Limited Partnership, doing business as Trophy Nissan (Trophy), violated the FTC Act as well as the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) and Regulation M, and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Regulation Z.
The FTC charged that Trophy advertised enticing prices, lease or finance terms, and promotions and then attempted to disclaim its attractive offers using small text in print and video ads. In addition to print and TV advertisements, Trophy also ran ads on its website, Facebook and Twitter. The dealership also ran print ads in a local Spanish-language newspaper, Al Dia.
Among the deceptive ads run by Trophy was one that misled consumers into thinking they could get out of their current loan or lease for only $1. The Commission’s complaint alleges the advertisement was deceptive since consumers could not get out of their loan or lease for that amount. In fact, Trophy would add the balance of any loan or lease obligation to the balance of a new loan.
In another promotion, “Max Your Tax,” Trophy claimed it would match tax refunds to use for a down payment, but the small print at the bottom of the ad disclosed it limited match refunds to no more than $1,000. The FTC alleges that Trophy failed to disclose adequately the additional terms.
As part of the proposed consent order, Trophy is prohibited from:
misrepresenting it will pay off a consumers’ trade-in;
misrepresenting material terms of any promotion or other incentive;
misrepresenting the cost of leasing or purchasing a vehicle; and
failing to clearly and conspicuously disclose material terms of a promotion or other incentive.
The proposed consent order also requires Trophy to comply with CLA and Regulation M and TILA and Regulation Z.
The case is part of the Commission’s continued efforts to protect consumers in the auto marketplace. The FTC provides a variety of resources for consumers buying or leasing a vehicle, including Are Car Ads Taking You For A Ride?
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and accept the proposed consent order was 5-0. The agreement is subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through Jan. 22, 2015, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Submit a comment online or through the mail.
NOTE: The Commission issues administrative complaints when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues consent orders on a final basis, they carry the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per day.