Florida Auto Dealerships Accused of Price Gouging

A national public interest group says some car dealerships are committing fraud by adding items onto contracts that customers did not want.

Sales practices at two dealerships, Clearwater Mitsubishi and Clearwater Toyota, have sparked a call from the national consumer group "public citizen" for a nation wide investigation into car buying.

The dealerships' sales practice became public when whistle blower Dwayne Overholt stepped forward. Unknown to customers, investigators discovered extended warrantees, service agreements, and theft insurance, often stuffed into a single line on the sales contract. Florida's attorney general made the dealerships parent company sonic pay $64,000.

While there has been a national call for an investigation into all car dealers, Florida's Attorney General says there is nothing he can do unless you complain.

"We are always interested in looking deeper if there are citizens who feel they have been wronged, that's our job, we will focus on it we will fight for them if we need too.
But the current status is as I understand it those citizens are being reimbursed through an agreement that's been entered into by the Department of Financial Services," said Charlie Crist.

Crist handed the case over to chief financial officer Tom Gallagher, who says Gallagher has settled the case. Not so says Gallagher spokesperson Tammi Torres

"There has not been a settlement reached as it relates to our investigation, we do have a refund program that is a component of that investigation if that's what you are referencing," said CFO spokesperson Tammi Torres.

So despite a national call for a look into car selling scams, Florida officials say they are doing all they can do until they hear of more complaints directly from consumers. Parent company Sonic owns 17 dealerships across Florida and nearly 200 nationwide.

Consumers with complaints can call the attorney general's hotline at 1-866-9-NOSCAM.


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