Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey warned car buyers Wednesday to be aware of dealers who may not accurately advertise vehicle prices or honor those prices.
Healey's office issued an advisory in response to an uptick in consumer complaints that allege deceptive pricing practices by dealers. About 74 such complaints were filed in the past year.
The office said it received reports of some dealerships advertising specific prices online but denying them once interested car buyers got to the store. In some cases, dealers had confirmed the advertised price in an email, the complaints said. Other car buyers reported dealers not honoring buyout provisions in lease agreements.
"Purchasing a vehicle is a significant financial investment for many individuals and families," Healey said in a statement. "After a surge in complaints to my office, we're making sure consumers are aware of their rights under the law, and that auto dealerships know our office will take action against these deceptive sales tactics."
A supply shortage of new and used cars paired with high demand has driven up prices over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Healey's office said this has created an environment ripe for auto advertising and pricing violations.
Dealerships can't refuse to sell a vehicle for the price advertised and they "must clearly and conspicuously disclose all included and excluded charges" in advertised prices, plus expiration dates of those prices, the attorney general's office said in a release.
Car buyers who think a dealership has violated auto advertising, pricing and leasing laws can file a complaint with the state attorney general's Consumer Advocacy and Response Division. A help hotline is also available at 617-727-8400.