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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

AG HEALEY ISSUES ADVISORY FOR CONSUMERS AND AUTO DEALERS ON THEIR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS ON ADVERTISING AND PRICING

 AG HEALEY ISSUES ADVISORY FOR CONSUMERS AND AUTO DEALERS

ON THEIR RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS ON ADVERTISING AND PRICING

Advisory Prompted by Consumer Complaints about Deceptive Advertising Practices by Auto Dealers in Massachusetts

BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey today issued an advisory to consumers and auto dealers, notifying them of their respective rights and obligations when it comes to automobile advertising and pricing. Specifically, the advisory reminds auto dealers of their obligation to accurately advertise prices, honor advertised prices, and comply with consumer lease contract provisions.

            The advisory is being issued in response to a significant increase in consumer complaints to the AG’s Office regarding unfair or deceptive pricing practices by auto dealers. Consumers allege that dealerships advertise certain prices online, only to deny consumers those prices at the dealership, and in some cases even after the dealer had confirmed the advertised price in an email. Other consumers report that dealers would not honor buyout provisions in lease agreements, which allow consumers to purchase leased vehicles at the end of their lease terms, instead requiring consumers to return their vehicles. 

            “Purchasing a vehicle is a significant financial investment for many individuals and families,” said AG Healey. “After a surge in complaints to my office, we’re making sure consumers are aware of their rights under the law, and that auto dealerships know our office will take action against these deceptive sales tactics.”

            As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the new and used car markets have experienced an increased demand for cars coupled with a car supply shortage, as people turn away from public transportation over concerns about spread of the virus and manufacturing has been disrupted by production slowdowns. This has led to significant increases in pricing for new and used vehicles, creating the potential for auto advertising and pricing violations.

            The AG’s advisory addresses these concerns by reminding auto dealers of their legal obligations to consumers, including:

  • Dealerships can’t refuse to sell a vehicle for the price advertised.
  • It is unfair or deceptive for dealerships to post or advertise inaccurate prices or prices that the dealership will not honor.
  • It is unfair or deceptive for dealerships to make misrepresentations about the value of a vehicle.
  • Dealerships must clearly and conspicuously disclose all included and excluded charges in any advertised price of a vehicle as well as the expiration date of any advertised price.
  • Dealerships have legal obligations to honor the terms of any contract with a consumer regarding the lease of a vehicle, including a consumer’s right to purchase the vehicle.
  • Dealerships must comply with existing statutes, rules, regulations, and laws intended to provide protection to consumers.

            Consumers who believe that an automobile dealership has violated the law regarding automobile advertising, pricing, and/or lease buyout provisions should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division at https://www.mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint or call the AG’s consumer hotline at 617-727-8400.

            For more information on your rights when buying a vehicle, visit the AG’s website

            This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Kimberly McDonald, Ann Lynch, Lizabeth Lagarto Marshall, and paralegal Hanan Traiba, all from the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, and Consumer Specialist Krystle Carvalho from the AG’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division.

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