The former owner of a Suzuki dealership in South Carolina and eight of his former employees have been indicted and are facing federal charges. Prosecutors say they used deceptive advertising that promised low monthly payments to entice customers to buy new cars.
According to the charges that were filed, the deceptive advertising and sales scheme occurred from 2006 through August, 2008.
In TV and radio ads, plus direct mail to consumers, Gibson and his co-defendants allegedly lured customers into buying cars, promising them very low monthly payments — usually between $44 and $99 — and here’s the kicker — at the end of several months, they could trade in the car for new one, at no additional cost.. However, when the “promotional period” ended, the customers’ payments skyrocketed. They were also not allowed to swap cars. Thus, they were trapped with high payments that busted their budgets.
According to a news report in the South Carolina Herald-Journal, “one couple bought a Suzuki in March 2007, [and] agreed to make monthly payments of $47 and were soon slapped with demands for $509 a month to keep their sedan.”
Under a court order issued in 2009, dealership customers divided $2.7 million in funds established by American Suzuki Motor Corp., lenders and the company’s insurance carrier.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Stephens is prosecuting the case with the assistance of the U.S. Postal Service and the FBI.