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Napleton Auto Group agrees to $10 million settlement in racial discrimination case

FTC alleges dealers snuck in add-ons
The Federal Trade Commission alleged the Ed Napleton Dealership Group used unlawful advertising practices, such as offering free gifts in connection with the purchase of a vehicle.
Posted at 9:43 PM, Apr 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 21:46:24-04

INDIANAPOLIS— The Federal Trade Commission announced Friday it has reached a record $10 million dollar settlement with Napleton, a large auto dealer group based in Illinois.

The FTC alleged Napleton car dealerships in four states 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, millions of which will be distributed to customers, the FTC said.

The lawsuit says the dealerships often snuck hundreds or thousands of dollars in illegal fees into the auto financing paperwork that they gave people to sign.

The dealerships charged customers for products like extended warranties and service plans — charges that were typically added to the amount financed and spread over monthly payments, so they were difficult for consumers to spot, according to the FTC.

The Napleton dealerships also falsely told people the add-ons were required to buy or finance the vehicle, the lawsuit alleged.

The claims relate to eight of the 51 Ed Napleton Dealer Group dealership locations in Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

No Indiana dealerships are named in the lawsuit or settlement, although WRTV is aware of two dealers who are part of Ed Napleton Dealer Group— Napleton Kia of Fishers and Maserati of Indianapolis.

Just last month, WRTV Investigates told you about a Napleton Kia of Fishers customer who alleged the dealer forged her signature on documents including for a service plan she did not want.

PREVIOUS | Woman files lawsuit alleging dealership forged signature

Jessica Poertner of Greenfield said also she never would have agreed to a $1,954 service plan with the dealership.

"Napleton Kia is not close for me to get an oil change or my tires rotated,” she said. “There's no way I would have gone 45 minutes out of my way to get this done."

Jessica Poertner’s lawsuit, which is still pending, against Napleton Kia of Fishers alleges they violated the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the federal Truth in Lending Act.

Napleton Kia of Fishers is not named in the lawsuit filed by the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC’s lawsuit alleged eight dealerships violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.

The FTC’s lawsuit against Napleton also says they 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 markups to the interest rates offered by the lenders working with defendants, resulting in higher costs for customers,” said the FTC in a statement.

One consumer cited in the FTC’s lawsuit reported that an Arlington Heights, Ill. dealership charged him nearly $4,000 in add-on fees after he’d paid a similar amount in down payment.

Napleton denies any wrongdoing.

FULL STATEMENT TO WRTV:

“While we vehemently deny any wrongdoing, the Ed Napleton Dealership Group has resolved disputed claims made by the Federal Trade Commission and the Illinois Attorney General’s office.  We made this decision to avoid the disruption of an ongoing dispute with the government. As a result, we reluctantly determined that it was in our best long-term business interests to resolve these matters. 

This settlement is the result of a three-year process where we provided complete transparency to the government. Most of its claims were based on interpretations of statistical data and there was no actual finding of intentional wrongdoing. 

The Napleton family has been in business for over 90 years, selling and servicing millions of vehicles. We are proud of our trusted, time-tested reputation and relationship with our customers and are fully committed to transparency in all of our dealings.

The governments’ unproven claims relate to 8 of the 51 Ed Napleton Dealer Group dealership locations. Dealerships outside of the Ed Napleton Dealership Group bearing the Napleton name were never part of this inquiry.

We have taken steps to implement additional safeguards to ensure full transparency to our customers. We intend to continue to build on the trust we have worked so hard to create with the consuming public and look forward to establishing new relationships with generations of  satisfied customers to come.”

The defendants in the case are:

  • North American Automotive Services, Inc., also doing business as Ed Napleton Automotive Group (Oak Brook, Ill.)
  • Ed Napleton Elmhurst Imports, Inc., also doing business as Napleton’s Kia of Elmhurst/Ed Napleton Acura (Elmhurst, Ill.)
  • Napleton’s Arlington Heights Motors, Inc., also doing business as Arlington Heights Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Arlington Heights, Ill.)
  • Hitko Kadric, general manager of the two Illinois-based dealerships
  • Napleton’s North Palm Auto Park, Inc., also doing business as Napleton’s Northlake Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Lake Park, Fla.)
  • Napleton Enterprises, LLC, also doing business as Napleton’s South Orlando/Kissimmee Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Kissimmee, Fla.)
  • Clermont Motors, LLC, also doing business as Napleton’s Clermont Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Clermont, Fla.)
  • North Palm Motors, LLC, also doing business as Napleton’s Northlake Kia (North Palm Beach, Fla.)
  • Napleton’s Ellwood Motors, Inc., also doing business as Napleton’s Ellwood Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram (Ellwood City, Pa.)
  • Napleton’s Mid Rivers Imports, Inc., also doing business as Napleton’s Mid Rivers Kia (St. Peters, Mo.)

The settlement will also require Napleton to establish a comprehensive fair lending program that, among other components, will cap the additional interest markup they can charge consumers, the FTC said in a statement.

The settlement also requires the auto dealer group to charge consumers only with the express, informed consent, and prohibits them from misrepresenting the cost or terms to buy, lease, or finance a car, or whether a fee or charge is optional, the FTC said.

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