AG Announces Rules Hearing, Settlements Regarding Auto Dealers

January 27, 2005

Attorney General Steven Rowe is moving aggressively to protect car buyers from deceptive advertising and other unfair trade practices.

On February 2, at 9 a.m. in room 600 of the Burton M. Cross State Office Building in Augusta the Attorney General's Office will hold a public hearing on proposed Unfair Trade Practice rules that spell out more clearly the kinds of car ads that are considered deceptive. "The rules will give dealers clear guidelines as to what ads are acceptable," said Assistant Attorney General Linda Conti, Consumer Protection Division Chief. "Their main goal is to insure that if an ad offers a car at a specific price that the car will in fact be available at that price." The proposed rules are available on the Attorney General's website at: <>

The Attorney General also announced recent settlements of two unfair trade practice court cases against car dealers.

A settlement with Prime Toyota, a car dealership located on U.S. Route 1 in Saco, will prohibit Prime from advertising cars at greatly reduced prices when those cars are not readily available to the public at that price. The Attorney General's investigation revealed that Prime Toyota, in April and May of 2004, advertised Camry LE vehicles at greatly reduced prices. But when consumers came shopping, those vehicles were very hard to find.

Prime Toyota did not admit to any wrongdoing. It paid a $10,000 civil penalty and also paid $1,000 toward the Attorney General's expenses.

A settlement with Auto Mart, a Portland dealership, prohibits it from failing disclose to buyers damages it knew the car had suffered. "Auto Mart sold a Mercedes Benz not once but twice to consumers without disclosing it had received serious accident damage," said Assistant Attorney General James McKenna, who handled the case for the State. Auto Mart will pay a $7,000 Civil Penalty and $500 toward the Attorney General's expenses. Auto Mart also did not admit any wrongdoing.