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Deceptive Auto Advertising Targeted By AG Horne

PHOENIX (Tuesday, January 29, 2013) -- Two cases involving allegations of deceptive automobile advertising practices have been settled in court action, Attorney General Tom Horne announced today.

In the first case, a Maricopa County judge has barred the owner of a now-defunct Louisiana vehicle sales marketing firm from advertising, selling, and leasing used or new vehicles in Arizona.

A consent judgment filed in December permanently prohibits Level 10 Marketing and company owner David M. Bottner, of Slidell, Louisiana, from engaging in any conduct in connection with the sale, lease, or advertisement of vehicles in Arizona. Judges in six other states issued similar court orders.

“In this instance, an out-of-state marketer was doing business in Arizona and enticing consumers by concocting bogus ‘urgent’ sales events, including supposed ‘repo’ and bankruptcy sales,” said Horne. “These were clear attempts to mislead the public.”

According to a court complaint, Bottner and his company misrepresented vehicle sales events on behalf of Arizona vehicle dealers by falsely claiming or implying that the sales events involved vehicles brought in from elsewhere for the sale.  Level 10 Marketingadvertised local dealers’ sales events using misleading terms such as “lender’s inventory sale” or “repossessed vehicle event,” and similar terms conveying a false sense of urgency, such as “emergency disposal,” and “liquidation.”

Company advertisements also claimed that used vehicles would be sold at “90 percent off original price,” comparing the used car price with the Manufacturer’s Retail Price (MSRP) of the vehicle when new and falsely claiming that “some vehicles will be available for $1 down, $114 per month.” The advertisements, according to the petition, misrepresented the cost of the vehicles and the ability of consumers to obtain financing.

In the second matter, AG Horne enforced the terms of a prior settlement with Abraham Bekelian, the former owner of a Phoenix motor vehicle dealership, 2020 Automotive. A Stipulated Judgment acknowledges Bekelian’s failure to make the payments required by a December, 2010 Consent Judgment and invokes the penalty clause in the amount of $250,000, less the $5,000 Bekelian had previously paid to the State.

The original lawsuit alleged that Bekelian and others violated the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act by using deceptive advertising techniques. 2020 Automotive allegedly refused to sell some cars at advertised prices. The company’s salespeople also told consumers that they were required to purchase certain “dealer add-ons,” including vehicle theft registration, paint protection sealant and window tint and other optional accessories, according to the allegations in the lawsuit. Additionally, the complaint alleged that the defendants buried a “fuel fee” among charges for license and registration in the sale paperwork, creating the appearance that the fee was required by the government or was otherwise mandatory when it was not. 

“Arizona law requires dealers to truthfully advertise the prices of motor vehicles they offer for sale,” said Horne. “Advertising a discounted price that is not actually available may amount to consumer fraud.”

The Level 10 case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Rebecca Salisbury and the Bekelian case by Assistant Attorney General Dena R. Benjamin.

If you are in the market for a new or used motor vehicle, visit the Attorney General’s webpage for helpful information at https://www.azag.gov/consumer/cars. If you feel you have been a victim of consumer fraud in connection with an automobile purchase or any other business transaction, you may file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office (www.azag.gov) or call  602- 542-5763 (Phoenix) or 520 628-6504 (Tucson). Toll-free outside of metro Phoenix, 800-352-8431.