The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched an enforcement action against an online used car dealer for allegedly misleading customers with deceptive advertising and shady business practices.

Deceptive Advertising Tactics

The FTC's complaint alleges that the dealer, which operates several websites, engaged in a pattern of misleading advertising. Specifically, the dealer:

  • Falsely advertised the condition of vehicles: Vehicles were described as being in "excellent" or "good" condition, but were in reality damaged or in need of significant repairs.
  • Misrepresented vehicle features: Vehicles were advertised with features that they did not have, such as heated seats or navigation systems.
  • Used deceptive pricing tactics: The dealer advertised low initial prices but then tacked on exorbitant fees and charges, significantly increasing the actual cost of the vehicle.

Shady Business Practices

Beyond its deceptive advertising, the FTC also alleges that the dealer engaged in a number of shady business practices, including:

  • Bait-and-switch tactics: Customers were lured into dealerships with promises of specific vehicles at advertised prices, only to find that the vehicles were unavailable or significantly more expensive.
  • Pressured sales tactics: Sales representatives used high-pressure tactics to force customers into purchasing vehicles they did not want or could not afford.
  • Delayed refunds: Customers who canceled their purchases or returned vehicles were often forced to wait an unreasonable amount of time for their refunds.

Consumer Damages

The FTC estimates that the dealer's deceptive practices have caused significant financial harm to consumers. Customers have been charged thousands of dollars in unexpected fees, have been misled about the condition of their vehicles, and have been subjected to unfair sales tactics.

FTC Enforcement Action

In response to these allegations, the FTC has filed a complaint in federal court seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the dealer from continuing its deceptive practices. The FTC is also seeking consumer redress, including refunds for affected customers.

Impact on the Industry

The FTC's action against this online used car dealer sends a strong message to the entire industry. Dealers must be honest and transparent in their advertising and business practices. They cannot mislead customers or engage in shady practices that harm consumers.

Consumer Protection Tips

To protect yourself when buying a used car online, consumers should:

  • Do your research: Read online reviews and check the dealer's reputation.
  • Be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals: If a vehicle seems significantly cheaper than similar models, it's likely a scam.
  • Get a vehicle history report: This will reveal any accidents, repairs, or other issues with the vehicle.
  • Have the vehicle inspected by an independent mechanic: This will give you an unbiased assessment of its condition.
  • Read the contract carefully before signing: Make sure you understand all the fees and charges included in the price.
  • File a complaint with the FTC: If you believe you have been misled or defrauded by an online used car dealer, you can file a complaint with the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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