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Attorney General's Office Settles With Another Ad Firm Accused of Deceptive Auto Marketing

January 28, 2008

SEATTLE — The Attorney General's Office announced its third settlement in recent months involving car advertisements, and said it's seeing an increase in out-of-state advertising firms working with local dealerships that aren't familiar with state laws governing advertisements.

“Just as there are rules of the road, there are rules for car advertising,” said Assistant Attorney General Mary Lobdell, of the Consumer Protection Division. “Washington dealers need to accept responsibility to assure that marketing firms they hire understand our state laws. Both dealers and ad firms can be sued and fined if their promotions fail to include all legally required disclosures.”

The Attorney General’s Office has created a Web page at www.atg.wa.gov/dealers.aspx with tips to help dealers comply with advertising laws.

The Attorney General’s Office sued Automotive Consultant Group of Metairie, La., along with company president Craig A. Stowe and his wife, Carolyn F. Stowe, last August, alleging the company misrepresented the nature of sales events, the availability of financing and vehicle values. The state also accused the company of using “simulated checks” and contest promotions that could mislead consumers. The Attorney General’s Office claimed the actions violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act, Prizes and Promotions Act and Department of Licensing statutes.

The parties reached an agreement recently in which Automotive Consultant Group agreed to comply with injunctive provisions that limit how the company can advertise vehicles for sale in Washington. The defendants will also pay $8,000 in attorneys’ fees. The agreement does not include a finding or admission of wrongdoing.

Should the company fail to comply with the terms, the agreement allows the state to seek a civil penalty of up to $25,000.

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