FTC refunds over $9.8 million in Napleton Automotive discrimination case

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The Federal Trade Commission is sending payments totaling more than $9.8 million to the thousands of consumers affected by a discrimination lawsuit against Napleton Automotive Group.

The agency is distributing 66,355 checks averaging $147 each to car buyers it says were affected by unlawful practices at group stores. Consumers should receive the checks within 90 days, the FTC said in a statement Monday.

Napleton Automotive, of Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., in March was the subject of a suit the FTC and the State of Illinois filedalleging that employees were adding illegal junk fees for unwanted add-ons to vehicle purchases and charging more in financing for Black consumers.

The joint complaint cited eight Napleton dealerships in Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania and Missouri and a general manager of two Illinois dealerships accused of adding junk fees and other products illegally, such as paint protection, in contracts as long as 60 pages.

In April, the dealership group in a statement “vehemently denied any wrongdoing.” The group said it “reluctantly determined” to settle the case “to avoid the disruption of an ongoing dispute with the government.”

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

The FTC is cracking down on junk fees and discriminatory practices that harm Black and Latino consumers, Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement in October.

Passport Automotive Group, also the subject of a multimillion-dollar FTC lawsuit, agreed in October to pay $3.4 million to settle. The FTC alleged it charged illegal fees and discriminated against Black and Latino customers. Passport said in a statement it denies the FTC’s findings “in the strongest possible terms” but that fighting the charges in court would take too long, be too costly and “ultimately would have distracted us from the important work we do.”

Passport, a family-owned business, started in 1991 and has nine stores in Virginia and Maryland selling BMW, Infiniti, Mazda, Mini, Nissan and Toyota vehicles.

Napleton Automotive ranks No. 13 on Automotive News’ most recent list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 38,848 new vehicles in 2021.

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