By Seena Gressin
Napleton, a multi-state auto dealership group, has settled a joint FTC and Illinois lawsuit alleging that it charged customers hidden fees for unwanted add-on products and discriminated against Black customers by charging them higher financing fees and interest rates than non-Latino White customers. Napleton will pay $10 million to settle.
The lawsuit says the defendants often snuck hundreds or thousands of dollars in illegal junk fees in a mountain of auto financing paperwork that they gave people to sign, often after long, grueling hours of negotiations. The charges — for products like extended warranties and service plans — typically were added to the amount financed and spread over monthly payments, so they were hard to spot. In other instances, the defendants falsely told people the add-ons were required to buy or finance the vehicle, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also says the corporate defendants charged Black customers about $99 more for add-ons and $190 more for financing than they charged similarly situated non-Latino White customers. The finance charges were added as mark ups to the interest rates offered by the lenders working with defendants, resulting in higher costs for customers.
The lawsuit names the Ed Napleton Automotive Group, eight of its dealerships, and the general manager of two Illinois dealerships. The settlement will return millions of dollars to injured customers.
Thinking about buying a car? It’s never a bad time for a reminder that you have rights. Before heading to a dealership, you also may want to look at an FTC staff report that highlights some of the challenges people face while buying and financing vehicles. And, if you believe a dealership charged hidden fees or discriminated against you, please tell us at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.