FROM:
Stephen Gibbons, Assistant District Attorney   CONTACT PERSON:
Robin B. Wakshull, Deputy District Attorney
Consumer Protection Unit     
(408) 792-2584   For Release on October 2, 2003   DISTRICT ATTORNEY SETTLES CIVIL CASE AGAINST AUTO DEALER   The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit has settled a civil lawsuit against AR Automotive LLC, a Palo Alto auto dealership doing business as Anderson Honda. Without admitting liability or wrongdoing, the business consented to the entry of judgment, which was signed by Superior Court Judge William J. Elfving. The terms of the stipulated judgment include $45,000 in civil penalties, a restitution program for customers who purchased a VTR on an advertised vehicle between October 1998 and July 2000, and injunctive provisions. The dealership cooperated with the District Attorney’s Office throughout the  investigation of the consumer complaints.   The complaint alleges that, between October 1998 and July 2000, the automobile dealership engaged in untrue and misleading advertising and unfair competition in connection with the sale of vehicle theft protection and registration programs, often referred to as a “VTR.” The VTR program consisted of: 1) etching a proprietary identification number on vehicle windows, and 2) providing a monetary benefit, in addition to a vehicle owner’s regular car insurance, in the event that the vehicle is stolen and not recovered or is recovered and declared a total loss. Although the VTR program was characterized as optional, some customers stated that they were told that purchase of the VTR was mandatory. The cost of the VTR was generally $200-300.   California Vehicle Code section 11713.1(e) provides that advertised vehicles must be sold at or below the advertised total price. A seller may not require that the buyer pay more than that price or purchase additional accessories or programs in order to buy the advertised car.  Requiring a buyer to pay for the VTR on cars that were advertised at a specific price would violate Vehicle Code section 11713.1(e). By statute, the definition of  “advertised total price” does not include certain listed fees such as taxes, vehicle registration fees, tire fees, and document fees.   As part of the settlement, customers who purchased an advertised vehicle between October 1, 1998 and July 31, 2000 and purchased the VTR program may be permitted to cancel the program and obtain a refund. Information about the restitution program will be mailed directly to those eligible customers within the next 90 days.   In order to be considered for a refund, customers must carefully follow the instructions they receive and return necessary forms by the stated due date.  

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