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Division of Consumer Affairs
Press Release

Attorney General
Anne Milgram
Division of Consumer Affairs, Director
David Szuchman
   
For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2009 
For Further Information Contact:
Jeff Lamm, 973-504-6327
 
State Files Suit Against Four Sansone Auto Dealerships

NEWARK - The Office of the Attorney General and Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against four dealerships within the “Sansone Auto Network” for alleged violations of consumer protection laws and regulations governing the advertisement and sale of used motor vehicles.

Additionally, two of these dealerships allegedly violated a 2004 Consent Order with the state which concerned similar issues.

The four Sansone dealerships, located in Middlesex and Monmouth counties, allegedly violated the state's Consumer Fraud Act by:

failing to disclose to consumers any prior damage to used motor vehicles offered for sale;
failing to disclose to consumers the prior use of used motor vehicles offered for sale; and
failing to disclose to consumers that the price posted for used motor vehicles did not include licensing costs, registration fees and taxes.

The four dealerships also allegedly violated the state's Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations by:

In their internet advertisements, failing to disclose that a used motor vehicle was previously registered and used as a rental car or corporate fleet vehicle;

In their internet advertisements, failing to disclose that advertised motor vehicles were previously damaged and were subjected to substantial repair and body work; and

In their internet advertisements, failing to include the statement that "price(s) include(s) all costs to be paid by the consumer, except for licensing costs, registration fees, and taxes" as legally required.

“There is no doubt that consumers would want to know - and must be told - about prior damage to, and fleet or rental use of, a vehicle that they are considering for purchase. The defendants' failure to disclose such important information violates our state's consumer protection statute,” Attorney General Anne Milgram said.

The Sansone Auto Network has offered used motor vehicles for sale through the Sansone Website (www.sansoneauto.com), as well as www.ebay.com and www.autotrader.com.

The three-count complaint, filed in State Superior Court in Middlesex County, names as defendants Fords National Auto Mart, Inc., which does business as Sansone Ford Lincoln Mercury in Ocean Township; Paladin Chevrolet, which does business as Sansone Chevrolet in Avenel; Sansone Plaza Dodge, Inc., which does business as Sansone Dodge in Ocean Township; and Sansone Management Corp., which does business as Sansone's Route 1 Auto Mall in Avenel.

The Sansone Dodge and Sansone Chevrolet dealerships in April 2004 entered into a Consent Order to settle a prior investigation by the Division. In the Consent Order, Sansone Dodge and Sansone Chevrolet agreed not to engage in any deceptive practices in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act and the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations, including failing "to disclose, prior to sale, any prior use of a motor vehicle" and failing "to disclose that a motor vehicle has been previously damaged and/or that substantial repair or body work has been performed."

Without admitting liability, Sansone Dodge and Sansone Chevrolet agreed to pay consumer restitution in the amount of $30,813, to pay a civil penalty of $85,000.00 and to reimburse the Division's investigative and other costs in the amount of $5,000. The Consent Order also provided that any future violation of the Consent Order or the CFA would be a second and subsequent violation subject to enhanced penalties.

“It's disturbing that two of these dealerships allegedly engaged in the same deceptive conduct that they pledged to stop back in 2004,” said David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director. “We will seek enhanced penalties for these violations, as allowed in the 2004 Consent Order. And we want these consumer abuses to stop, once and for all.”

The Consumer Fraud Act provides for enhanced civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation.

Deputy Attorney General Alina Wells of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section is representing the state in this action.

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