CHICAGO - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit on Aug. 27 in Cook County Circuit Court against two Orland Park, Ill. auto dealers for deceptive sales and advertising practices.
The complaint, which names Orland Park Nissan and Infiniti of Orland Park as defendants, alleges that the dealers sent direct mail advertisements in April 2007 to Chicago area consumers describing an "exclusive credit amnesty event" and urging consumers to call the dealers to arrange a private appointment.
The mailer indicated that targeted consumers may have filed bankruptcy in the past but that the "amnesty" would enable consumers to qualify for an affordable auto loan no matter their credit rating. The envelope containing the direct mailer claimed that "important vehicle recall information" was enclosed and that the consumers' response was required. However, no recall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration existed and the mailer didn't contain recall information.
"These deceptive mailers purposely and unfairly targeted consumers who may have struggled at one time to manage their finances," Attorney General Madigan said. "This lawsuit should send the message to auto dealers that my office won’t tolerate using deceptive marketing practices to lure unsuspecting consumers into risky loans."
The Attorney General's office has received 26 complaints against Orland Park Nissan and Infiniti of Orland Park, both of which are located at 8550 W. 159th St. in Orland Park. The Better Business Bureau also received 18 complaints against the auto dealers.
Attorney General Madigan's complaint alleges that the deceptive mailer violates the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, the Loan Advertising to Bankrupts Act, the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Illinois Administrative Rules on Motor Vehicle Advertising.
The Attorney General's lawsuit asks the court to prohibit the auto dealers from violating these consumer protection laws, including offering incentives and free prizes, using the term "recall" in advertisements, offering coupons with sales agreements and advertising that a loan would be made to a consumer who has declared bankruptcy.
The suit also seeks restitution for consumers and asks the court to assess civil penalties of $50,000 per violation, an additional $50,000 statutory civil penalty and a $10,000 civil penalty for each violation committed against a person over 65 years of age. Madigan's suit also asks the court to order the defendants to pay the costs of the investigation and court proceedings.
Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Abundis is handling the case for Attorney General Madigan's Consumer Fraud Bureau. The pending date for trial is Feb. 2, 2009.