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Top infractions in dealership advertising reviewed by AG's office

February 22, 2019
Dealers selling a vehicle for more than its advertised price continues to be the top infraction seen by staff of the Illinois attorney general’s office who review dealer ads, an assistant attorney general said Feb. 13 at an annual get-together with the CATA, the IADA, and representatives of the Better Business Bureau, which also monitors dealer advertising.
Greg Grzeskiewicz recounted a handful of recurring issues with dealer ads that run afoul of the state’s Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations. Another transgression: advertising vehicles that had been sold, sometimes months earlier. "We’ve seen that a lot," he said, "so I wanted to bring that up."
Grzeskiewicz said both consumer complaints about dealer ads and AG enforcement actions by his office increased in 2018. He has a staff of up to 15 workers scouring dealer ads, and said his office meted out more than one six-figure fine last year.
The BBB, likewise, reviews dealer ads — including pre-publication — and can act as a sort of firewall for dealers. When infractions are spotted, the offending dealer is sent a letter. If the ad is not subsequently corrected, the matter is referred to the AG’s office.
Patricia Kelly, senior counsel for the BBB, said her office sent 113 letters to dealers in 2018 and referred 31 matters to the AG. The elevated number of referrals involved so-called "zero tolerance" issues established several years ago. Those matters are automatically referred to the AG.
Kelly said most infractions her office sees involve advertised prices that include deductions of one or more limited rebates for which not all consumers can qualify. "We find our issues on websites, primarily," she said.
"Prices are also advertised that exclude freight charges. Advertised prices often exclude dealer added-on products or enhancements that will cost consumers. These dealer add-ons must be included in advertised prices," she said.
Dealer advertising agencies, often based outside Illinois, also are accountable for ads that do not meet the state’s advertising regulations. Grzeskiewicz said it is difficult to collect fines from them, however, because many simply go out of business.