Ramey Motors Inc. has been in the Federal Trade Commission's crosshairs twice over deceptive or misleading advertisements. It doesn't want to be there again.
The dealership group, with five stores in West Virginia and Virginia, has implemented repeated advertising training and legal ad review, and is taking a more conservative approach to advertising, said Johnnie Brown, a lawyer for Ramey Motors.
The changes follow a 2012 consent agreement with the FTC in which Ramey committed to avoid misrepresenting any costs or terms in vehicle advertising and to include the annual percentage rate — or APR — if a payment is advertised.
In 2015, Ramey agreed to an $80,000 civil penalty payment to settle a subsequent FTC lawsuit that claimed Ramey's ads violated the 2012 consent agreement for concealing terms such as down payments, failing to provide credit disclosures clearly and conspicuously and neglecting to maintain required records.
"We have centralized advertising, whereas before maybe certain store managers had authority to place an ad or run an ad," Brown, a lawyer with Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, told Automotive News. "We've centralized that to one person, so that one person maintains that type of consistent control of quality, and they consult with legal counsel quite often."
The FTC and many state-level regulators (see stories, Page 20) have made auto finance practices and dealership advertising priority enforcement areas. The FTC says the rules are straightforward, but some dealers wish they were clearer.