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advertised car prices in North Carolina

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I had been discussing the purchase of a pre-owned auto with a local (North Carolina) dealership. I was to return on Saturday with my wife to possibly purchase a vehicle. On Friday evening I visited the web site for the dealership and discovered that they had over 26 listings for pre-owned vehicles and the first 20 had no price listed just a note to Contact Us. The last six had all been priced at $19,616. I assumed that there was some special reason for these prices such as a sale or some high mileage, etc.. I called the dealership and explained that I wanted one of the cars and would be in on Saturday to me with my salesman. I was informed that they did not have any such prices and had to lead the internet manager to the site to prove the pricing was there. When I arrived at the dealership they refused to talk about a vehicle at that price. The auto's in question range from a 2000 Lexus with 800+ miles to a 1996 Lexus with 50K miles. The Sales Manager said the ad was a mistake and he was not going to loose money on a Lexus. They refused to make any consideration at all. Do I have a case. If there had been one digit wrong then I would understand that someone made a typo. But in this case 6 cars were priced totally wrong according to the dealership. Am I wrong to hold them to a price that is advertised for the general public. I ran a copy of the ad because within 10 minutes they had removed the pricing.




My response:

Unfortunately, I could find no North Carolina law on the subject. That doesn't mean it doesn't exist however; just that I couldn't locate it. Generally speaking, I do believe you can hold their hands to the fire on this matter, especially because of the way you describe the facts. See an attorney for specifics on your State's laws in these regards. In the meantime, I have compiled the Federal Rules and Regulations concerning Deceptive Advertising and Bait and Switch law for you, including contact information so that you can report the matter, and make a formal complaint (it would be adviseable that you print the following, and highlight those areas specific to your problems in order to make your complaint):

FTC Headquarters
6th & Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20580
(202) 326-2222
TDD (202) 326-2502

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: George Brent Mickum IV, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission, Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Washington, D.C. 20580, (202) 326-3132.

Deceptive Advertising: FTC Policy Statement

This letter responds to the Committee's inquiry regarding the Commission's enforcement policy against deceptive acts or practices.1 We also hope this letter will provide guidance to the public. Section 5 of the FTC Act declares unfair or deceptive acts or practices unlawful. Section 12 specifically prohibits false ads likely to induce the purchase of food, drugs, devices or cosmetics. Section 15 defines a false ad for purposes of Section 12 as one which is "misleading in a material respect."2 Numerous Commission and judicial decisions have defined and elaborated on the phrase "deceptive acts or practices" under both Sections 5 and 12. Nowhere, however, is there a single definitive statement of the Commission's view of its authority. The Commission believes that such a statement would be useful to the public, as well as the Committee in its continuing review of our jurisdiction. We have therefore reviewed the decided cases to synthesize the most important principles of general applicability. We have attempted to provide a concrete indication of the manner in which the Commission will enforce its deception mandate. In so doing, we intend to address the concerns that have been raised about the meaning of deception, and thereby attempt to provide a greater sense of certainty as to how the concept will be applied.3 I. SUMMARY Certain elements undergird all deception cases. First, there must be a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer.4 Practices that have been found misleading or deceptive in specific cases include false oral or written representations, misleading price claims, sales of hazardous or systematically defective products or services, without adequate disclosures, failure to disclose information regarding pyramid sales, use of bait and switch techniques, failure to perform promised services, and failure to meet warranty obligations.5 Second, we examine the practice from the perspective of a consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances. If the representation or practice affects or is directed primarily to a particular group, the Commission examines reasonableness from the perspective of that group. Third, the representation, omission, or practice must be a "material" one. The basic question is whether the act or practice is likely to affect the consumer's conduct or decision with regard to a product or service. If so, the practice is material, and consumer injury is likely, because consumers are likely to have chosen differently but for the deception. In many instances, materiality, and hence injury, can be presumed from the nature of the practice. In other instances, evidence of materiality may be necessary. Thus, the Commission will find deception if there is a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances, to the consumer's detriment. We discuss each of these elements below. II. THERE MUST BE A REPRESENTATION, OMISSION, OR PRACTICE THAT IS LIKELY TO MISLEAD THE CONSUMER. Most deception involves written or oral misrepresentations, or omissions of material information. Deception may also occur in other forms of conduct associated with a sales transaction. The entire advertisement, transaction or course of dealing will be considered. The issue is whether the act or practice is likely to mislead, rather than whether it causes actual deceptions. Of course, the Commission must find that a representation, omission, or practice occurred In cases of express claims, the representation itself establishes the meaning. In cases of implied claims, the Commission will often be able to determine meaning through an examination of the representation itself, including an evaluation of such factors as the entire document, the juxtaposition of various phrases in the document, the nature of the claim, and the nature of the transactions.7 In other situations, the Commission will require extrinsic evidence that reasonable consumers reach the implied claims.8 In all instances, the Commission will carefully consider any extrinsic evidence that is introduced. Some cases involve omission of material information, the disclosure of which is necessary to prevent the claim, practice, or sale from being misleading.9 Information may be omitted from written10 or oral11 representations or from the commercial transaction.12 In some circumstances, the Commission can presume that consumers are likely to reach false beliefs about the product or service because of an omission. At other times, however, the Commission may require evidence on consumers' expectations.13 Marketing and point-of-sales practices that are likely to mislead consumers are also deceptive. For instance, in bait and switch cases, a violation occurs when the offer to sell the product is not a bona fide offer.14 The Commission has also found deception where a sales representative misrepresented the purpose of the initial contact with customers.15 When a product is sold, there is an implied representation that the product is fit for the purposes for which it is sold. When it is not, deception occurs.16 There may be a concern about the way a product or service is marketed, such as where inaccurate or incomplete information is provided.17 A failure to perform services promised under a warranty or by contract can also be deceptive.18 III. THE ACT OR PRACTICE MUST BE CONSIDERED FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE REASONABLE CONSUMER The Commission believes that to be deceptive the representation, omission or practice must be likely to mislead reasonable consumers under the circumstances.19 The test is whether the consumer's interpretation or reaction is reasonable.20 When representations or sales practices are targeted to a specific audience, the Commission determines the effect of the practice on a reasonable member of that group. In evaluating a particular practice, the Commission considers the totality of the practice in determining how reasonable consumers are likely to respond. A company is not liable for every interpretation or action by a consumer. In an advertising context, this principle has been well-stated: An advertiser cannot be charged with liability with respect to every conceivable misconception, however outlandish, to which his representations might be subject among the foolish or feeble-minded. Some people, because of ignorance or incomprehension, may be misled by even a scrupulously honest claim. Perhaps a few misguided souls believe, for example, that all "Danish pastry" is made in Denmark. Is it therefore an actionable deception to advertise "Danish pastry" when it is made in this country.? Of course not, A representation does not become "false and deceptive" merely because it will be unreasonably misunderstood by an insignificant and unrepresentative segment of the class of persons to whom the representation is addr

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