A couple is suing a Florida dealership and its parent company, AutoNation Inc. The plaintiffs claim the store "stuffed" their finance contract with products they didn't know they were buying.
AutoNation disputes the allegation. It asserts that sales documents show the customers were aware of each item they agreed to purchase.
Ronald and Elizabeth Moeller bought a new Dodge Ram 1500 pickup in 2002 from AutoWay Dodge in Clearwater, Fla. They allege that the dealership inflated the price of the service contract to conceal the cost of other products such as GAP, or guaranteed automotive protection, insurance.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status. It claims so-called payment packing is routine at AutoWay Dodge and potentially at other stores owned by AutoNation, the nation's largest dealership group.
AutoNation spokesman Marc Cannon says the Moellers' suit is frivolous and their claims are false. Cannon produced copies of the purchase agreement, service contract application and product menu, all signed by Elizabeth Moeller. The products are itemized and priced on the menu and purchase agreement.
The Moellers filed their lawsuit last week. The suit says they paid $26,668.01 for their truck. It alleges that their finance contract shows a payment of $2,323.68 to DaimlerChrysler Services for an extended service plan, but a rate sheet DaimlerChrysler Services filed with the State of Florida quotes the price of the service contract as $970.
The plaintiffs' attorney, Jeffrey Shelquist, acknowledges that the dealership disclosed the products on the menu and buyer's order, and that Elizabeth Moeller signed off on their purchase. But he says dealerships are legally required to make these disclosures on finance contracts and leases, too.
Cannon compares the Moellers' suit to a lawsuit filed two years ago against another AutoNation store, AutoWay Honda, also in Clearwater.
The defendant challenged the dealership's practice of combining product prices on an installment contract, even though each product was disclosed on a separate form he signed.
Says Cannon: "The courts that looked at the case threw it out, ruling that there was no harm to the customer and ultimately awarding us fees for defending a frivolous case."
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