Atlanta OCA issues $1.66M penalty to Smart Automotive

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The Atlanta Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs has issued a $1.66 million civil penalty order to Smart Automotive Group LLC.

The orders are against Smart Automotive Group and its two owners, Michael Burst and Ben Burst, individually, for violating the Fair Business Practices Act.

Smart Automotive Group is a Kenner, LA-based marketing company that specializes in promotional events and mailings for the automotive sales industry. The company's phone number was not working after several calls were made to it.

The OCA said Smart Automotive has been making unfair and deceptive representations in direct mail promotions sent to Georgia consumers. Many of these mailers were disseminated after the company's legal counsel stated that the company was no longer conducting business in Georgia.

OCA said it first became aware of the company through investigations of and settlements with car dealerships who were running deceptive ads. The investigations led to the discovery of a common denominator: The marketing company responsible for developing the ads was Smart Automotive Group.

The allegations of deceptive advertising against Smart Automotive include the following:

ûMaking false claims as to the type or uniqueness of a sales event (for example, "Georgia's only reprocessed vehicle event," "liquidation" events, "seized and repossessed" events), when in fact the sales "events" were nothing more than the ordinary sale of used cars;

ûRepresenting that consumers had won automobiles as prizes, when they had not;
ûMisrepresenting monthly vehicle payment amounts;

ûMisrepresenting the number of vehicles available for sale; claiming that consumers with credit problems were pre-approved for loans of up to $30,000, when such was not the case; and
ûFailing to list the number, odds and retail value of the promotional prizes offered.

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