SPARTANBURG — An Upstate auto dealer is facing numerous lawsuits and the wrath of regulators who have accused it of using deceptive advertising tactics.
The state Consumer Affairs Department has written a letter to Joe Gibson Suzuki requiring it to address numerous concerns of customers and the agency.
“In almost 20 years of reviewing auto advertising, this office has never received so many complaints about advertising against one business,” wrote Danny Collins, deputy for regulatory enforcement for Consumer Affairs.
Typically, the agency asks dealers to comply with its requests, but in this case, “we also want each of the complaints addressed, and probably some compensation.”
The Consumer Affairs Department can fine the dealership and take legal action against it, agency spokeswoman Alice Brooks said.
The car dealership has 10 days to respond.
“We have recently received a lot of information,” dealership general manager Billy Mills told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal in an e-mail. “We have not had time to process this information. With this in mind, we feel it is not in anyone’s best interest to comment at this time.”
Previously, the dealership has blamed customer complaints on its rapid growth, the newspaper reported.
But the complaints keep coming, said Kathy Barrett, president of the Better Business Bureau of the Upstate, which revoked the dealership’s membership last year. And, Barrett said, none of the myriad complaints against the dealership have been resolved.
“We’ve received 11 new complaints against Joe Gibson this week alone,” Barrett said.
At least 25 lawsuits have been filed, accusing the dealership of unfair trade practices and misrepresentation, among other things.
In one suit, filed on behalf of Union County resident Montie Bradburn, the dealership is accused of failing to live up to a promise to pay $557 of Bradburn’s monthly car payment. Instead, Bradburn’s lender is demanding $656 a month from him and says he owes a total of $28,567.
Bradburn’s attorney Rodney Pillsbury of Greenville said Bradburn’s suit is typical of the dozen lawsuits he has filed against Joe Gibson Suzuki, alleging that “no customer has been able to realize the deal promised by the defendants.”
Among the deals customers say the dealership offered were $47-a-month payments, free gas for a year, a reverse payment program ending with payments of $53 per month and a payment for life program in which the customer would “lock in” an initial low monthly payment for the rest of the customer’s life.