Dealer fees are the easiest way to scam customers out of their money. Sales contracts are often long, and most people don’t actually read everything. The excitement of a new car has them just signing on the dotted line and looking for the keys. But charging those fees has caught up with some people, as CBS News reports that a dealer group based out of Illinois will have to pay $10 million to settle a case that alleged they were charging customers “junk fees.”
The dealer group, Napleton Automotive Group of Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois runs dealerships in multiple states. In March, the group was hit with a deceptive practices complaint by the FTC. The complaint accuses the dealer of adding everything from GAP insurance to paint protection to customers’ sales contracts without their knowledge:
A survey cited in the complaint showed that 83 percent of buyers from the dealerships were charged junk fees for add-ons without authorization or as a result of deception. One consumer cited in the complaint reported that the dealership located in Arlington Heights, Ill., charged him for nearly $4,000 in add-on fees after he’d paid a similar amount in down payment.
How were they able to sneak these things in without customers knowing? Long service contracts and worn-out customers. After lengthy negotiations and customers declining whatever add-ons or services the dealer was trying to push — and confirming pricing without the crap they tried to sell — the dealers would sneak those very services back into the contracts. These contracts would run 60+ pages according to the FTC.
This all gets better with a small dash of discrimination. Napleton is also accused of allegedly charging Black customers more interest than White customers:
The complaint also alleges that the Napleton dealerships discriminated against Black consumers in connection with financing vehicle purchases. Napleton employees had wide latitude to increase the cost of a consumer’s loan by increasing the amount paid in interest or adding add-ons to the final contract.
According to the complaint, Black customers at the dealerships were charged approximately $190 more in interest and paid $99 more for similar add-ons than similarly situated non-Latino White customers.
Napleton has now agreed to settle the suit for $10 million. While the group has denied everything, it claims it’s settling “to avoid the disruption of an ongoing dispute.” Yeah, sure. The FTC says that $9.9 million of the money will go directly to consumers for relief.