Under the terms of the Final Consent Judgment that concluded a lawsuit filed in State Superior Court in Passaic County, Bergen Auto Enterprises, LLC, which does business as Wayne Mazda and Wayne Auto Mall Hyundai (collectively “Bergen Auto Enterprises”), has agreed to pay $135,000 to settle claims that the dealerships had engaged in unconscionable commercial practices and deceptive advertising practices in their advertisement and sale of new and used motor vehicles.
The Office of the Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs filed suit in August 2014, alleging in its five-count complaint that Bergen Auto Enterprises had violated the Consumer Fraud Act and Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations, among other things, by engaging in “bait and switch” tactics by featuring motor vehicles in advertisements that were not actually available for purchase or lease. The dealerships also allegedly failed to disclose to customers that some used motor vehicles had previously been used as rental vehicles and/or had sustained significant prior damage.
“”Purchasing a new or used motor vehicle can be a very intimidating process for consumers,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “This settlement ensures that Bergen Auto Enterprises will make all appropriate disclosures in advertisements and otherwise.”
“The Division of Consumer Affairs will take action whenever allegations of deceptive practices by auto dealerships are made,” said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “New Jersey’s consumers deserve honesty and full disclosure when dealing with these dealerships.”
As part of the settlement, Bergen Auto Enterprises must pay $135,000, which is comprised of a civil penalty of $109,595.45 and $25,404.54 for reimbursement of the State’s attorneys’ fees and costs. The settlement also includes a $50,000 suspended civil penalty, which will be vacated after one year if Bergen Auto Enterprises does not violate the terms of the Final Consent Judgment.
The terms of the Final Consent Judgment requires Bergen Auto Enterprises to:
- Undertake a search using a vehicle history service, to discern the prior use (i.e., rental) of a used motor vehicle advertised and/or offered for sale and to determine whether the used motor vehicle has been in an accident or otherwise sustained damage. Such information must be disclosed to consumers prior to the purchase of the used motor vehicle.
- In all advertisements of used motor vehicles, clearly and conspicuously disclose the prior use of the used motor vehicle, unless previously and exclusively owned or leased by individuals for their personal use; and further to clearly and conspicuously disclose whether a used motor vehicle had been previously damaged and that substantial repair or body work has been performed on it.
- Include in all advertisements the statement that “price(s) include(s) all costs to be paid by consumer, except for licensing costs, registration fees, and taxes.”
- In all advertisements, clearly and conspicuously disclose, next to a purported unconditional offer, all disclaimers, qualifiers or limitations that in fact limit, condition, or negate such offer.
- In all advertisements, clearly and conspicuously disclose the applicable time period of any special offer, unless such offer is a manufacturer’s program.
- Refrain from advertising a motor vehicle for sale or lease without possessing title to the motor vehicle.
Wayne Mazda and Wayne Auto Mall Hyundai are located on Route 23 in Wayne.
Investigators Donna Leslie and Cullen Church, of the Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection, and Joseph Singh, formerly a Supervising Investigator, conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Erin M. Greene, in the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section of the Division of Law, represented the State in this action.