Attorney General Curtis Hill is warning Hoosiers to watch out for costs added by dealerships to the price of vehicles at the time of purchase. Fees added by dealers can increase final purchase prices by thousands of dollars, and in some cases they may violate state law.
“As with any transaction, people buying vehicles must be absolutely vigilant in making sure sellers are not slipping extra charges into the deal,” Attorney General Hill said. “Anytime Indiana residents encounter questionable business practices, we want them to let our office know so that we can investigate and fulfill our vital mission of protecting Hoosier consumers.”
The Office of the Attorney General recently investigated two Clark County car dealerships based on allegations of this type of behavior. Both entered into agreements with the State of Indiana under which they must pay civil penalties and pledge to stop certain business practices. As part of the agreements, the dealerships have not admitted to any legal wrongdoing nor been implicated for any such violations.
- In the first instance, Kia of Clarksville added a “Kia Total Protection Package” sticker to all new vehicles. This “protection package” — featuring mudguards, all-weather mats and a spare tire kit — increased the cost of each new vehicle by $3,990. The added sticker also listed the manufacturer’s warranties as part of the protection package even though the warranties were already included in the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of each new vehicle. Kia of Clarksville did not include the cost of the protection package in any of its advertising. Under the terms of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) approved by the Clark County Circuit Court, Kia of Clarksville must remove all references to warranties and roadside assistance packages from the added stickers. They also must include the costs of any added packages in the advertised prices of vehicles. Kia of Clarksville also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $55,000 plus $2,000 in costs for a total monetary payment of $57,000.
- In the second instance, Neil Huffman Honda utilized a similar “protection package” addendum sticker on all new vehicles. This package increased the cost of each new vehicle by $1,995 and included mudguards, all-weather mats and a key chain. The added sticker lists Honda’s roadside assistance program as part of the package even though this benefit is already provided by Honda and included in the MSRP of each new vehicle. Neil Huffman Honda also represented that the package included two years of certified maintenance. However, Neil Huffman Honda offered and advertised this maintenance program at no cost on each new or used vehicle sold, meaning that consumers were not receiving it through purchasing the additional protection package. Under the terms of an AVC approved by the Clark County Circuit Court, Neil Huffman Honda must remove all references to roadside assistance and certified maintenance from the added stickers. They also must include the costs of any added packages in the advertised prices of vehicles. Neil Huffman Honda also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $50,000 plus $3,000 in costs for a total monetary payment of $53,000.
Consumers who believe they have encountered similar practices at any other dealerships in Indiana are asked to report these instances to the Office of the Attorney General. They may do so by calling 1-800-382-5516 or going online at www.in.gov/attorneygeneral and clicking the “File a Complaint” box at the bottom of the page.