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Auto Dealer Fraud: How to Spot Illegal Advertising

Although there are many reputable auto dealerships, others do nearly anything to make money, including the use of misrepresentation and false advertising. They advertise models they don’t actually have available, list one price while charging another, or present their cars as defect-free when there has been previous damage.

Below are some examples of illegal advertising and how you can spot them.

  1. Bait and switch pricing

Some dealerships offer a small number of cars at extremely low prices. When you visit the lot to inquire, they claim that those few specially discounted vehicles have already been sold and proceed to offer other cars at much higher prices.

To help avoid this scam, call the dealership in advance to confirm that the car you’re interested in is still available. If it isn’t, look elsewhere. If they say it is and then tell you that “it just sold” when you arrive, definitely look elsewhere.

  1. Misrepresenting the price of the car

You visit a dealership, look the cars over, and decide on one. The salesperson quotes you a price, but when the sale contract is drawn up, the amount is higher. The contract also includes surcharges and fees that bring the total sale price up even further.

If the price on the written contract does not match the amount you were quoted and the dealership refuses to honor the salesperson’s original representations, you may be facing a fraud situation. Put the pen down and walk away.

  1. Adding unwanted accessories and options that increase the price

This practice, knowing as “packing” a contract, involves the dealership including add-ons that you did not request in order to increase the sale price. Such extras include warranties, service contracts, and accessories.

To protect yourself, review the contract for any add-ons that you did not ask for. Make sure that any option that was included “for free” does not suddenly have a price. If you find anything that you did not authorize, mark it out and reduce the total cost by that amount.

  1. Concealing previous damage or problems

Dishonest dealerships will often sell cars that have been wrecked or encountered multiple repair problems and not advise the buyer of the car’s history.

While some concealed damage is relatively easy to spot (for example, a vehicle that was previously flooded may have a musty smell or be doused with air freshener to disguise that odor), other problems aren’t as obvious. When you see a car you like, always test-drive it and have a mechanic inspect it before buying it. If the dealership refuses to provide you with the vehicle’s repair records on request, back away from the sale.

Contact Us

If you have been harmed by an auto dealer’s false advertising and fraudulent behavior, contact Missouri consumer protection attorney Bryce Bell at Bell Law today, as you may be entitled to compensation. Attorney Bell will help you exercise your rights as a Missouri consumer and hold the dealership accountable for its deceptive advertising practices.

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