May 26, 2010
Four dealerships within the "Sansone Auto Network" in New Jersey have agreed to settle a state lawsuit by paying $175,000 and revising their business practices.
The state charged that the four Sansone dealerships, located in Middlesex and Monmouth counties, violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act and Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations by failing to disclose to consumers prior damage to used vehicles, prior rental or fleet use of used vehicles, and that the price posted or advertised for a used motor vehicle did not include licensing costs, registration fees and taxes.
"Our laws and regulations require disclosure of material facts to consumers prior to their purchase of a motor vehicle," said Attorney General Paula T. Dow. "We expect full compliance, so consumers can make informed decisions before spending their hard-earned money."
The four dealerships included in the consent judgment are Fords National Auto Mart, Inc., which does business as Sansone Ford Lincoln Mercury in Ocean Township; Paladin Chevrolet, which does business as Sansone Chevrolet in Avenel; Sansone Plaza Dodge, Inc., which does business as Sansone Dodge in Ocean Township; and Sansone Management Corp., which does business as Sansone's Route 1 Auto Mall in Avenel.
Two of these dealerships -- Sansone Chevrolet and Sansone Dodge -- entered into a consent order with the Division of Consumer Affairs in 2004 to resolve allegations similar to the ones contained in the 2009 lawsuit.
Adjusting business practices
Without admission of liability or any wrongdoing, the defendants agreed to the following business practices to settle the state's lawsuit:
not engage in any deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of their business in the state and comply with all applicable state and/or federal laws, rules and regulations;
discern the prior use of a motor vehicle offered for sale or lease and disclose such information to consumers prior to their purchase or lease of the motor vehicle;
discern whether a motor vehicle offered for sale or lease has been involved in an accident or otherwise sustained damage and disclose such information to consumers prior to their purchase or lease of the motor vehicle;
when disclosing prior use and/or prior damage to a motor vehicle via Carfax or similar vehicle history report, clearly and conspicuously identify the link as Carfax (or similar vehicle history report), along with a designation of "Free Vehicle History Report" within the description of the motor vehicle;
include the statement that "price(s) include(s) all costs to be paid by consumer, except for licensing costs, registration fees, and taxes" in any website or other advertisement;
in any ad, clearly and conspicuously disclose whether a motor vehicle had been previously damaged and that substantial repair or body work has been performed on it, when defendants know or should have known of such repair or body work;
in any advertisement of a used motor vehicle at an advertised price, clearly and conspicuously disclose the motor vehicle's prior use, when such prior use is known or should have been known, unless previously and exclusively owned or leased by individuals for their personal use; and
in any advertisement of a motor vehicle at an advertised price, include the statement that "price(s) include(s) all costs to be paid by consumer, except for licensing costs, registration fees, and taxes."
The defendants face imposition of an additional maximum $200,000 in civil penalties if the terms of the Consent Judgment are violated during the next 12 months.
"We expect compliance with this settlement, and we will again act to protect consumers, if any violations occur," said Sharon Joyce, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
The $175,000 payment required under the Consent Judgment includes $83,232.58 in civil penalties and $91,767.42 in reimbursement to the state for its attorneys' fees and investigative costs.