The Federal Trade Commission has charged two Las Vegas companies that arrange for consumers' private automobiles to be transported by truck, rail, or ship to various destinations throughout the United States with misrepresenting their ability to have consumers' cars picked up or delivered in a timely manner. AAAA Auto Car Brokers, Inc. (AAAA), AAA Anywhere Anytime Auto Brokers, Inc. (AAA Anywhere), and their owner, Katherine Ann Carter, have settled FTC charges by paying $45,000 in consumer redress. In addition, the defendants are prohibited from making false claims about the certainty of pick-up and delivery dates and from falsely claiming they have a superior record of timely performance. The order also prohibits them from claiming that cars will be picked up or delivered on specific dates without having a reasonable basis for such claims.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges, the defendants are automobile transport brokers, who, for a fee, offer to arrange for consumers' cars to be shipped throughout the United States and overseas. They locate independent trucking companies to handle the transport. Auto brokers must coordinate the consumer's requested date and route with available trucking companies. The ease of finding transportation for a specific date or range of dates depends on a number of factors, including the route, the time of year, the broker's reputation for timely payment, or whether truckers can quickly fill orders in one location. The FTC alleged that the defendants, through their advertisements, misrepresented their ability to have consumers' cars picked up or delivered on precise dates and times, and as a result, many consumers were forced to cancel their contracts when the truck failed to arrive. These consumers also lost their deposits of $200 or $250. In addition, some consumers also experienced extreme delays waiting for arrival of their vehicles, requiring them to rent cars or incur other incidental costs, the FTC alleged.
The settlement prohibits the defendants from falsely claiming that: it is likely, virtually certain, or certain that consumers' vehicles will be picked up or delivered on certain dates or ranges of dates; transportation is available for pick up or delivery of consumers' vehicles on specific dates or ranges of dates; consumers, by paying a fee or satisfying any other condition, have greater assurance that their vehicle will be picked up or delivered by a certain date or range of dates; or the defendants have a typical or superior record of on-time pick up or delivery of consumer vehicles. The settlement also requires the defendants to have a reasonable basis before making claims that they will have automobiles picked up or delivered in a timely manner.
In addition, the settlement requires the defendants to pay $45,000 in consumer redress. These funds will be given to identified consumers who, according to company records, cancelled contracts and failed to obtain refunds of deposits or certain other fees.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint and stipulated final order was 5-0. The complaint and stipulated final order for permanent injunction were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, in Las Vegas, on October 23, signed by the judge on October 25, and entered on October 29, 2001. The FTC's Western Region Office - San Francisco - handled the investigation.
NOTE: This stipulated final order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation.
Copies of the complaint and the stipulated final order are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at https://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC Matter No. 012-3025)
(Civil Action No. CV-S-01-1244-RLH-LRL)
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