The Federal Trade Commission and the State of Connecticut are taking action against auto dealer Manchester City Nissan (MCN), along with its owner and a number of key employees, for systematically deceiving consumers about the price of certified used cars, add-ons, and government fees.

The complaint alleges that the dealership, in addition to deceiving consumers, regularly charges them junk fees for certification, add-on products, and government charges without the consumers’ consent, sometimes costing them thousands of dollars in unwanted and unauthorized charges.

Connecticut also alleges that all these practices are deceptive or unfair under Connecticut law.

“With this action against Manchester City Nissan, its top executives, and its managers, the Commission and its partner, the State of Connecticut, continue to crack down on deceit and unfairness in the auto industry,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This action follows on the heels of the Commission’s announcement of the Combating Auto Retail Scams (CARS) Rule, and once again makes clear that bait-and-switch tactics and hidden junk fees have no role in honest dealmaking.”

“Today’s action sends a strong warning to any dealership engaging in these types of deceptive practices that misconduct will not be tolerated,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. “Manchester City Nissan’s egregious business practices appear to have violated multiple laws, and we’re going to hold them accountable on behalf of all the consumers they deceived.”

Double Charges for “Certified Pre-Owned” Vehicles

According to the complaint, MCN advertises numerous cars, including Nissan vehicles, as being “certified pre-owned.” This term refers to a used vehicle that has been inspected and repaired to the manufacturer’s specifications, which comes with an extended warranty from the carmaker. Nissan’s rules prohibit dealers from charging a fee for certification beyond the price of the car.

However, the complaint alleges the dealership and its employees regularly tack on a certification charge for these vehicles when consumers arrive looking to buy the advertised cars. One example cited in the complaint describes a consumer that came in looking to buy a certified pre-owned car advertised for $15,700, but then the dealer added a $5,295.65 junk “inspection fee” for a car it had already inspected.

In addition, the complaint alleges that MCN often charges consumers extra for an inspection or repair that has already occurred, but then fails to report to Nissan that the certified car was sold, leaving consumers without the additional warranty that was promised in MCN’s advertising.

Bogus Add-Ons

The complaint alleges that MCN and its employees frequently charge consumers for bogus add-ons they did not agree to pay. They often charge consumers for add-ons such as General Asset Protection (GAP), service contracts, maintenance contracts, and Total Loss Protection (TLP). TLP, in particular, appears in 90 percent of all sales by MCN.

One consumer, as described in the complaint, negotiated a price of $20,500 for a Nissan Rogue Sport, but when she went to sign the sales contracts, her promised monthly payment had increased, which she attributed to a credit issue. Instead, she found that MCN had tacked more than $7,000 in add-ons to the amount she financed for the car.

Bogus Government Fees

MCN and its employees also regularly deceive consumers during the sales process about government-imposed taxes and fees, claiming that junk fees added by MCN are required by the government or deceptively inflating the actual government fees to register the car and keeping the difference as profit.

An example cited in the complaint shows that MCN told one consumer that Connecticut registration and other state fees were $345. But, in fact, Connecticut registration and other fees were only $208.20.

The complaint charges Chase Nissan (which does business as MCN) along with its principals Patrick Dibre and Refaat (Brian) Soboh, general manager Michael Hamadi, finance manager Aiham Alkhatib, and sales managers Matthew Chmielinksi and Fred (Freddy) Mojica with violating the FTC Act and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the complaint was 3-0. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

NOTE: The Commission files a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the named defendants are violating or are about to violate the law and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The case will be decided by the court.

The FTC staff attorneys on this matter are Samuel Jacobson and Edward Smith of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

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