In April of this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the State of Illinois filed a complaint against Napleton, a sizable multi-state auto dealer group based in Illinois, for charging customers illegal junk fees for unnecessary “add-ons” and for charging Black customers disproportionately more for financing. The lawsuit claimed that Napleton employees charged consumers for services, including paint protection, gap insurance, and extended warranties that they did not request. Consumers were forced to pay hundreds to thousands of dollars in illegal junk fees.
According to a poll that was included as evidence in the complaint, 83% of buyers from dealerships were tricked into paying junk fees for add-ons. One of the customers mentioned in the complaint claimed that after making a comparable down payment, the dealership in Arlington Heights, Illinois, charged him about $4,000 in add-on expenses.
The settlement forced Napleton to create a comprehensive fair lending program, one of whose features will be a cap on the additional interest markup they can charge customers.
The FTC also proposed a rule banning junk fees and “bait-and-switch” advertising tactics in response to the lawsuit. The new rule will safeguard consumers and trustworthy dealers by making the car-buying process more transparent and competitive. Additionally, it would allow the Commission to get money back from customers who have been duped or charged without permission.
“As auto prices surge, the Commission is taking comprehensive action to prohibit junk fees, bait-and-switch advertising, and other practices that hit consumers’ pocketbooks,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Our proposed rule would save consumers time and money and help ensure a level playing field for honest dealers.”
Some opponents have been outspoken about the proposed ruling, including President and CEO of NADA, Mike Stanton. Stanton says it seems that the FTC wants to “radically change the way people buy and sell cars.” He says there are already solidified laws against unfair and deceptive practices, which all dealers approve of and agree to follow. NADA sent the FTC a 200-page letter that points out that the proposed rules are a “rush to judgment” and asks the Commission to reconsider them.
In an announcement made yesterday by the FTC, Consumers who suffered because of the discriminatory actions and junk fees of Illinois-based Napleton Automotive Group are receiving settlements from the Federal Trade Commission totaling more than $9.8 million. Averaging $147 each, the agency is sending 66,355 checks. Checks must be cashed in 90 days by the recipients.
Refunds in FTC cases are broken down by state using the interactive dashboards for refund data provided by the Commission. However, the U.S. The Supreme Court determined in 2021 that the Commission does not have the right to file a lawsuit for financial relief in federal court under Section 13(b). As a result of that decision, the Commission will find it more difficult to compensate consumers who have been damaged by unfair or deceptive practices by returning money to them. The Commission has requested Congress to allow it to recover money for consumers. In this case, though, customers can call Epiq, the refund administrator, at 1-888-691-6050 if they have any queries concerning their refund as a customer. The Commission never requests payment upfront or account details in order to issue refunds.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Visit consumer.ftc.gov to learn more about consumer issues, or ReportFraud.ftc.gov to report fraud, scams, and dishonest company practices.
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