The Florida Attorney General has sued a Florida company that made false claims on national radio and TV ads that it could cut consumers' car payments in half.
Auto Relief Group, its subsidiaries and owners, John J. Boyle and John J. Boyle III, are accused of deceiving consumers and bilking them out of hundreds of dollars.
According to the lawsuit, representatives of the Broward County company told undercover investigators their monthly auto loan payments could be reduced by 50% if they paid upfront fees ranging from $299 to $375.
In its ads, the company claimed its "trained experts" would work directly with lenders to slash their car payments. Ads also touted that "freedom from high car payments is a call away" and that "experienced counselors" would work with consumers to develop a plan based on their financial needs.
The company advertised that it had been helping customers for 15 years. It led consumers to believe that it had direct relationships with lenders and that they were able to restructure or refinance loans, the lawsuit alleges. For example, if a loan carried an interest rate of 14%, the company claimed it could help drop the interest rate to 8%.
Sandi Copes, Communications Director for the Florida AG, said victims of the scam are all over the country.
"Consumers should be cautious of offers to reduce loan payments or interest rates for up-front fees," Copes said. "This is against the law."
The lawsuit says customers also were routinely led to believe they could email or call the company any time. Customers who called the company's toll-free number were often put on hold and told by a representative that they qualified when in reality, the representative didn't negotiate anything.
Some of the lenders the company claimed to deal with include Chase, Wells Fargo, AmeriCredit, Mazda, Toyota, BMW, Honda and Dodge. Some of those companies, however, sent cease and desist letters to Auto Relief Group ordering it to stop contacting them. In some cases, the company continued to send letters to lenders even after being told to stop, according to the lawsuit.
Most of the companies told investigators they don't adjust auto loans, or will only do so if they deal directly with the customer, not a third party. The only thing some lenders did was allow consumers to defer a payment.
The AG has frozen the company's assets and appointed a receiver to take control of the company. No one from the company could be reached for comment. Its website has only information about the receiver and links to court documents.
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