Attorney General Curtis Hill is warning Hoosiers to beware of advertising pitches that mislead consumers into thinking they have won significant prizes. This tactic is often employed to lure people to locations where they are subjected to used-car sales pitches.
Despite successful legal actions taken previously by the Office of the Attorney General against this tactic, advertising firms and auto dealerships continue to put it into practice.
Recently, the Office of the Attorney General filed two complaints against auto prize mailing promoters engaging in this conduct — one in Bartholomew County in south-central Indiana and one in Lake County in northwestern Indiana.
- In Bartholomew County, Budget Direct Mail Promotions LLC (BDM) and Heritage Automotive Sales LLC designed and ran a promotion for a sales event at Heritage Automotive. BDM and Heritage Automotive are owned by the same individual. The Attorney General’s complaint alleges BDM sent mailings to 40,000 Indiana recipients that included game pieces indicating that each recipient had won one of six specified prizes: $10,000, $5,000, $1,000, $500, a 55-inch flat-screen TV or a Yamaha ATV.
When 142 recipients took their mailings to Heritage Automotive’s sales event to claim their prizes, each recipient was instead subjected to a sales pitch soliciting the purchase of a vehicle. The recipients were finally informed they had not won any of the six prizes prominently represented on the mailing. Each recipient instead received a $5 gift card to either Kroger or Walmart. The mailings also failed to include proper disclosures required by Indiana law.
- In Lake County, the Attorney General’s complaint alleges Rush Hour Events LLC promoted and ran a sales event on behalf of an Indiana vehicle dealership.
To promote the sales event, Rush Hour Events sent promotional mailings to 33,325 Indiana recipients. Each mailing created the impression that the recipient had won a significant prize. The recipients of the mailings were directed to the dealership to claim their prizes. Once lured to the dealership, 116 recipients were subjected to a sales pitch urging the purchase of a vehicle. The recipients of the mailings were eventually awarded their “prize” — a cheap “smart watch.” The mailings also failed to include proper disclosures as required by Indiana law.
“Most car dealers in Indiana are good, honest, hard-working professionals,” Attorney General Hill said. “Unfortunately, every industry has its share of individuals who seem bent on skirting the law in order to maximize profits.”
He urged Hoosiers to be vigilant.