On June 2, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced a settlement with a Jacksonville car dealership, its financing arm, and its president related to allegations that the dealership engaged in misleading business and sales practices. The consent agreement, filed in the Circuit Court of the Fourth Judicial Circuit for Duval County, Florida, requires the dealership to provide more than $5 million in debt forgiveness to affected consumers.
According to a complaint filed in 2011, Beach Blvd. Automotive, Inc. and its exclusive financing arm, Beach Blvd. Auto Financing, Inc., engaged in unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable business practices. Bondi alleged that the dealership used devices to track hundreds of vehicles purchased by Beach Blvd. customers without the customers’ knowledge or consent. Beach Blvd. later used the tracking devices to repossess vehicles, with some repossessions purportedly occurring even when consumers were current on payments. According to the complaint, the businesses created fake online profiles using customers’ data, without their knowledge, in order to post positive comments online about the businesses.
In addition, the A.G. alleged that Beach Blvd. Automotive, Beach Blvd. Auto Financing, and the companies’ president, John O. King, attempted to collect non-existent debt from consumers and threatened to use force to repossess vehicles. The A.G. further contended that the three defendants increased consumers’ monthly car payments by adding optional items to sales transactions without consumers’ knowledge. The complaint also alleged that Beach Blvd. Automotive failed to honor promised warranties and delayed servicing vehicles until their warranties expired, and then refused to service the vehicles.
“Nearly 80 consumers filed complaints with our office, and our priority in this case is to return money to harmed consumers through restitution and to halt any fraudulent business practices,” Bondi said in a statement.
The consent agreement requires the three defendants to modify their business practices and provide its customers with more than $5 million in debt forgiveness. In addition, the terms of the agreement prohibit Beach Blvd. Automotive and Beach Blvd. Auto Financing from providing information to credit reporting agencies for those consumers whose accounts are covered under the consent agreement. The agreement also requires Beach Blvd. Automotive to pay $2,500 to cover certain binder deposits made by consumers. Beach Blvd. Automotive must also pay more than $280,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
A copy of the consent agreement is available here.