Eight New England dealerships have agreed to honor advertised sales prices and to make refunds to customers they overcharged in a settlement with the state of Vermont.
As part of the settlement, one of the stores, Capitol City Automart Inc. in Berlin, Vt., near Montpelier, paid a $16,000 civil penalty to the state, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell's office said.
The agreement, titled assurance of discontinuance, covers eight new- and used-vehicle stores in Vermont and New Hampshire owned by Ronney Lyster and Abel Toll. The others are Littleton Chevrolet-Buick Inc., Quality Ford-Lincoln-Mercury Inc., Littleton Auto Mart Inc., Quality Motors Inc., L&T Auto Group, L&T Auto and Springfield Auto Mart Inc.
The agreement requires the dealerships to make their advertising sales promotions and sales contracts available for the attorney general's office to review for three years.
The settlement stems from transactions in 2008 when vehicles were sold at "above the advertised price," according to the agreement. The manufacturer's suggested retail price was misrepresented for vehicles sold with snowplows, according to the agreement.
Sorrell said in a statement: "Consumers need to make sure they understand what the advertisement offers and insist that they pay nothing more, except tax, registration and title fees."
The agreement does not admit wrongdoing, said dealer lawyer Robert Rachlin of Burlington, Vt.
Rachlin said most of the violations were technical, there was "no evidence anybody tried to defraud anybody" and the matter was settled "out of consideration for the cost" of defending the matter in court.
Most of the approximately eight affected customers have received their refunds, and the dealerships are trying to find the others, he said.
According to the settlement, the dealerships had resolved a previous complaint in 2005.