Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced a total settlement of $557,815 with three car dealerships to resolve allegations that the dealerships:

  • Charged more for vehicles than advertised on their websites;
  • Automatically charged every customer a fee for a $249 paint and fabric spray; and
  • Described vehicles as available for “auction” or “wholesale” prices in violation of the Rhode Island Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

As part of the assurance of voluntary compliance, the entities will pay a combined $557,815 to resolve the claims, including $457,815 in direct restitution to consumers and $100,000 to the Office of the Attorney General to pay for the costs of its investigation and suits. The entities and their owners are also enjoined from engaging in similar conduct in the future.

According to the press release, “[t]his matter is part of Attorney General Neronha’s industry-wide effort to crack down on unfair and deceptive practices in the auto sales industry with a particular focus on junk fees and unwanted add-on products.”

Our Take:

Rhode Island chose to pursue the entities under state law rather than asserting violations of potentially applicable federal statutes like the Consumer Financial Protection Act, but echoing the agenda of federal regulators targeting purported “junk fees.”