Internet Auto settles deceptive advertising charges in Idaho

Idaho auto dealer settles complaintBoise car dealer Internet Auto Rent & Sales will change its advertising strategies to settle allegations by Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden that the company was violating state consumer protection laws.

The dealer has complied with the attorney general's request to no longer do business with Automotive Experts, a Louisiana marketing agency that designed the Boise dealer's direct-mail ads.
"Internet Auto acted swiftly to address the problems with its advertising," Wasden said in a statement. "The company's owners worked diligently with their attorneys and my office to ensure that future ads comply with the Idaho Consumer Protection Act."

In 2009, the direct mail ads sparked an investigation with the Idaho AG after consumers contacted the office over what they said was deceptive advertising. The AG has reached several settlement agreements with Idaho dealerships in the past and filed lawsuits against dealers to enforce the Consumer Protect Act.

The settlement agreement states that the dealer allegedly violated the Idaho Consumer Protection Act and rules associated with automobile advertising. In addition, illegal rebates and unclear material terms and conditions for pricing and financing were advertised, according to a Wasden's statement.

Internet Auto agreed to pay a $5,000 penalty and an additional $2,000 for the AG's fees and costs. The company has not admitted any liability or wrongdoing.

Treena Stephens, owner of Internet Auto, said she has terminated her company's advertising contract with Automotive Experts.

"The last thing I want to do is do business without integrity," Stephens said. "I'm glad the attorney general contacted me...Because of all of that, I have my attorney's office read advertisements to make sure they comply with Idaho state laws," she said.

Guidelines to comply with the Idaho advertising rules are now available online for auto dealers and marketing companies.

This investigation is ongoing. Consumers can file an advertising complaint with the AG's office with a consumer complaint form and by mailing it with the original ad to Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.

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