The auto dealership business can be tough in Florida. Overhead costs are high, profit margins can be slim, and there is a heavy burden of regulatory compliance issues. One area where auto dealers can run into trouble is with advertising.
Recently, a network of auto dealerships and its chief executive were sued by California’s attorney general over alleged false advertising and other alleged fraud.
The attorney general’s office claims the Good Car Co., a group of eight Kia and Mitsubishi dealerships in California and several more in Nevada, used advertising to mislead customers about credit options and discounts. The company is alleged to have also deceived customers about vehicle options and other matters, and to have lied on credit applications.
Under Florida law, false advertising is considered a deceptive trade practice, and involves procedures and penalties under both civil and criminal law. False advertising is generally considered a second-degree misdemeanor, but both private citizens and government authorities can bring suit against a business under deceptive trade practices law.
If the court finds against the business, remedies can include actual damages, an injunction and more. If the court finds that the deception was intentional, it may force the business to pay a $10,000 fine, as well as attorney’s fees for the other party.
Auto dealers who have been accused of deceptive practices need a skilled lawyer to defend them. And, since trade practices laws can vary widely depending on the industry involved, it can be important to have help from a lawyer with experience in automotive law.