Written by Jaime L. Tomeo Friday, 14 August 2009 00:00
Levittown’s Town & Country Jeep Chrysler Dodge in Levittown was among the nearly 40 auto dealers across the state to be issued a “cease-and-desist” letter from Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office for running misleading and deceptive advertisements for the new federal Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS or Cash for Clunkers).
The Attorney General’s office issued the letters after reviewing several car dealership advertisements that omitted significant requirements that had to be met in order for a consumer to be eligible to get the rebate.
According to a July 29 letter from Assistant Attorney General Alan B. Berkowitz to Town & Country on Hempstead Turnpike, their Newsday ad “prominently proclaims a CA$H FOR CLUNKER$ program, offering up to $4,500 toward the purchase of a new car.”
“Buried in a small footnote, the ad merely tells consumers that they ‘must qualify for the Clunker program,’” the letter states. “Nowhere does the ad disclose any of the major conditions of the CARS program. Without such disclosures, consumers cannot determine whether the transactions they are considering might qualify them for the $4,500 discount. Furthermore, in the middle of the footnote it states ‘cannot combine offers.’ However, while this disclaimer appears before the CARS program information, it is unclear whether or not this disclaimer applies to the CARS program.”
Berkowitz continues in the letter to notify Town & Country that their ad does not comply with Section 1 of the NYS Attorney General’s Advertising for Auto Dealers Guidelines, which states “deception may also result from the failure to clearly and conspicuously disclose any material facts, including limitations, disclaimers, qualifications, exclusions and restrictions.”
Businesses that fail to advertise honestly and try to take advantage of this federal program will face legal action by my office,” added Attorney General Cuomo.
Attempts to contact the general manager of Town & Country were unsuccessful.
According to CARS.gov, CARS is a $3 billion government program that helps consumers buy or lease a more environmentally friendly vehicle from a participating dealer when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck.
Consumers will be able to take advantage of this program and receive a $3,500 or $4,500 discount from the car dealer when they trade in their old vehicle and purchase or lease a new, more fuel efficient one. No consumer registration in the program is required.
“This new federal program not only allows consumers to buy new vehicles that they otherwise might not be able to afford, but creates an enormous incentive for people to choose environmentally-sound, fuel-efficient cars,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This program could be a boon for both our economy and our environment, as well as provide much-needed financial assistance to consumers.”
• It applies to the purchase or lease of a new vehicle;
• The trade-in must be in drivable condition;
• The trade-in vehicle’s fuel efficiency must not exceed a combined city/highway fuel economy of 18 mpg;
• The trade-in vehicle must have been insured, and registered to the current owner, for at least one year prior to the trade-in;
• If a transaction falls within the CARS program, the amount credited to the consumer is $3,500 or $4,500 depending on the type of vehicle being traded in, the type of vehicle being purchased, and how much the fuel efficiency of the new vehicle exceeds that of the trade-in. For example, in the case of a passenger vehicle being traded in and a new passenger vehicle being purchased, if the new vehicle has a combined fuel efficiency of at least 4 mpg but less than 10 mpg better than the trade-in vehicle, then the credit is $3,500; if the difference is at least 10 mpg, then the credit is $4,500.
• Dealerships must register with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Consumers may determine if a dealer is registered and get more information by going to www.cars.gov or calling 866-CAR-7891. Consumers may also ascertain mpg ratings of vehicles at www.fueleconomy.gov/feg.
Attorney General Cuomo urges any consumer who believes they are a victim of fraudulent or deceptive business practices to contact his office at 800-771-7755. Auto advertising guidelines for dealers are available online at www.oag.state.ny.us/bureaus/consumer_frauds/pdfs/AdGuidelinesForDealers.pdf.