The Federal Trade Commission and the State of Illinois are taking action against Napleton, a large Illinois-based multi-state auto dealership group, for sneaking illegal junk fees for unwanted “add-ons” on utility bills. customers and for discriminating against black consumers by charging more for financing. Napleton will pay $10 million to settle the lawsuit filed by the FTC and the State of Illinois, a record monetary judgment for an FTC auto loan case.
“Working closely with the Illinois Attorney General, we hold these dealerships accountable for discriminating against minority consumers and introducing unwanted charges on people’s bills,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau. “Especially as families struggle with rising car prices, dealerships who cheat their customers can expect to hear from us.”
The complaint against North American Automotive Services, Inc. (also known as Ed Napleton Automotive Group) alleges that eight of its dealerships and the general manager of two Illinois dealerships unlawfully added undesirable charges for products” undesirable extras such as payment insurance. and paint protection. Illegal junk fees cost consumers hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
According to the complaint, dealers often waited until the end of the hours-long negotiation process to introduce unwanted fees for add-on products and services into consumer purchase agreements, which are often up to 60 pages long. These unwanted charges were often added despite consumers specifically opting out of the add-ons or confirming prices that did not include the add-ons. In other cases, consumers were misinformed that the add-ons were free or required to purchase or finance their vehicle.
A survey cited in the complaint showed that 83% of dealership buyers were charged unwanted fees for additions without permission or as a result of deception. A consumer named in the complaint reported that the dealership in Arlington Heights, Illinois charged him nearly $4,000 in additional fees after paying a similar amount as a deposit.
The complaint also alleges that Napleton dealerships discriminated against black consumers with respect to vehicle purchase financing. Napleton employees had wide latitude to increase the cost of a consumer loan by increasing the amount paid in interest or adding additions to the final contract.
According to the complaint, the dealerships’ black customers were charged about $190 more in interest and paid $99 more for similar add-ons than non-Latino white customers in the same situation.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement with the FTC and the State of Illinois, $9.95 million of the $10 million in the judgment will be used to provide financial relief to consumers, and $50,000 will be paid to the attorney. general of Illinois. Funds.
The settlement will also require defendants to establish a comprehensive fair lending program that, among other things, will cap the additional interest mark-up they can charge consumers. The settlement also requires defendants to charge consumers only with express, informed consent, and prohibits them from misrepresenting the cost or terms of purchasing, leasing or financing a car, or whether any charges or fees are optional.
The defendants in the case are:
- North American Automotive Services, Inc., also doing business as Ed Napleton Automotive Group (Oak Brook, Illinois)
- Ed Napleton Elmhurst Imports, Inc., also doing business as Napleton’s Kia of Elmhurst/Ed Napleton Acura (Elmhurst, Illinois)
- Napleton’s Arlington Heights Motors, Inc., also doing business as Arlington Heights Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
- Hitko Kadric, general manager of the two Illinois-based dealerships
- North Palm Auto Park, Inc. of Napleton, also doing business as Northlake Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Napleton (Lake Park, Florida)
- Napleton Enterprises, LLC, also doing business as Napleton’s South Orlando/Kissimmee Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Kissimmee, Florida)
- Clermont Motors, LLC, also doing business as Clermont Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Napleton (Clermont, Florida)
- North Palm Motors, LLC, also doing business as Northlake Kia of Napleton (North Palm Beach, Florida)
- Ellwood Motors, Inc. of Napleton, also doing business as Ellwood Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Napleton (Ellwood City, Pennsylvania)
- Napleton’s Mid Rivers Imports, Inc., also doing business as Napleton’s Mid Rivers Kia (St. Peters, Mo.)
The Commission’s vote allowing the staff to file the complaint and stipulating the final order was 4-0. Chair Lina M. Khan and Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter released a concurring statement. The FTC filed the complaint and final order in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
REMARK: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The stipulated final orders have the force of law when approved and signed by the judge of the district court.