Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine along with nine other state attorneys general today announced a settlement with Georgia marketing firm Action Integrated Marketing (AIM) to resolve accusations that it used deceptive advertising practices.
“This company conducted sales events for used car dealerships across the country,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Using phrases such as ‘Government Vehicle Disposal’ and ‘The Repo Joe Sale’, AIM’s ads typically were designed to steer buyers to sales events under the pretense they would receive a special deal. In reality, most of the ads violated state consumer law.”
Based in Norcross, Georgia, AIM was hired to conduct sales promotions for various auto dealers across the nation, including several dealerships in Ohio. AIM ran sales events at dealerships and provided related services, such as print and direct mail advertising, signs at the dealerships and additional sales staff for the sale.
According to Attorney General DeWine, AIM used deceptive language that made consumers believe the sale vehicles were not part of the dealer’s normal inventory, when that was not the case. For example, it conducted sales that gave consumers the false impression that they would get a better deal because the vehicles had been repossessed and because AIM would use their connections to bring in vehicles for the sale.
The state attorneys general accused AIM and its Chief Executive Officer, Jay D. Murphree, of designing promotions that created a false sense of urgency, that failed to disclose all mandatory charges and that failed to adequately disclose prices and terms.
Under a multi-state settlement filed today in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and other states’ local courts, AIM and Murphree agreed to an injunction placing restrictions on their marketing practices. Additionally, the defendants will pay $150,000 to reimburse the participating states for attorneys’ fees. Ohio’s share of the payment is $13,000.
The defendants also were assessed a civil penalty of $130,000, which will be suspended provided they comply with the agreement. Other states participating in the settlement include: Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.
We’ve been concerned for quite some time about this type of advertising. Lately, we’ve seen a local resurgence in their appearance in local newspapers and television stations.
This shows, in my opinion, that it’s in the best interest of auto dealers to be proactive in paying close attention to and controlling the content of their ads.
If you have questions about advertising issues or BBB’s advertising guidelines as they relate to auto dealers, feel free to get in touch at 513-421-3015 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.