Toyota dealership pays to settle lawsuit

CERRITOS - A civil lawsuit against Power Toyota Cerritos has been settled with the car dealership agreeing to pay $172,000 in monetary relief including civil penalties and legal costs incurred by the District Attorney's Office.Deputy District Attorney Dana Aratani of the Consumer Protection Division said the dealership agreed to the settlement without admitting liability. Deputy District Attorney Thomas Wenke also worked on the case. Under the terms of the stipulated judgment, the dealership is permanently enjoined from making untrue or misleading statements to customers in connection with the sale or lease of any vehicle. Power Toyota Cerritos is owned by Mr. Wheels Incorporated, headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The civil action filed by the District Attorney's Office alleged that certain staff of Toyota Cerritos made false and misleading statements to customers in an effort to induce consumers to lease rather than purchase automobiles. An investigation by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revealed that misrepresentations to some customers included falsely advising them that they did not qualify for a loan, that they could convert a lease into a purchase at any time and that it was in their best financial interest to lease. The practice resulted in greater commissions for the sales staff involved and higher prices for customers, prosecutors said. The allegations of unfair business practices and untrue or misleading statements are violations of California's Business and Professions Code. The settlement provided restitution for the victims through a related administrative action by the DMV. Power Toyota Cerritos worked cooperatively in both the investigation and in resolving the case with the District Attorney's Office. The matter was settled concurrently with an administrative action brought by the DMV. The stipulated judgment was signed on March 4 by Judge Mel Red Recana of the Los Angeles Superior Court and announced Wednesday.

********** Published: March 12, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 47