So let's say you see a car dealer's ad promising to pay off your trade-in no matter ho much you owe on it.
Sound too good to be true? Of course it does. And of course it isn't. True, that is.
The Federal Trade Commission objected to the ads and now five dealers have agreed to stop running them. They're also barred from running similar deceptive ads in the future.
The dealers are:
- Billion Auto, Inc., in Sioux Falls, South Dakota;
- Frank Myers AutoMaxx, LLC, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina;
- Key Hyundai of Manchester, LLC and Hyundai of Milford LLC, in Vernon and Milford, Connecticut, respectively, and which advertise jointly; and
- Ramey Motors, Inc., in Princeton, West Virginia.
The FTC charged that the ads, which ran on the dealers' websites and on sites such as YouTube.com, deceived consumers into thinking they would no longer be responsible for paying off the loan balance on their trade-in, even if it exceeded the trade-in's value (i.e., the trade-in had "negative equity"). Instead, the dealers rolled the negative equity into the consumer's new vehicle loan or, in the case of one dealer, required consumers to pay it out of pocket.
Examples of the allegedly deceptive advertisements include:
- "Credit upside down? Need a new car? Go to Billionpayoff.com. We want to pay off your car." The advertisement depicts a car moving, inverts the video to depict it upside down, and then turns it right-side up again. (Billion Auto)
- "Uncle Frank wants to pay [your trade] off in full, no matter how much you owe." (Frank Myers AutoMaxx)
- "I want your trade no matter how much you owe or what you're driving. In fact I'll pay off your trade when you upgrade to a nicer, newer vehicle." (Key Hyundai and Hyundai of Milford)
- "Ramey will pay off your trade no matter what you owe . . . even if you're upside down, Ramey will pay off your trade." (Ramey Motors)
In addition, the complaints in three of the cases allege violations of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and its implementing Regulation Z for failing to disclose certain credit-related terms, and the complaints in two of the cases allege violations of the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) and its implementing Regulation M for failing to disclose certain lease related terms.
The proposed settlements, reached as part of the FTC's ongoing efforts to protect consumers in financial distress, bar all of the dealers from making similar deceptive representations in the future. The cases are the first of their kind brought by the FTC. The Commission also issued a new consumer education publication titled "Negative Equity Ads and Auto-Trade-ins" to help consumers understand these types of ads.
"Buying a new car or truck is a major financial commitment, and the last thing consumers need is to be tricked into thinking that a dealer will 'pay off' what they owe on their current vehicle, when they really won't," said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The Federal Trade Commission is constantly on the lookout for potentially deceptive ads, and brings actions to stop them when appropriate."