Louisiana Auto Ad Agency Fined $5 million by Georgia

The state of Georgia, which has always seemed a little lax in the regulatory area, continues to go after deceptive auto advertising. From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs announced fines of $1.66 million apiece against Smart Automotive Group and its owners, Michael Burst and Ben Burst, charging them with violating the Fair Business Practices Act. State officials say the fine may be a record for the agency.
The agency said the company mailed out promotions to consumers on behalf of car dealers even after the state was told Smart Automotive was no longer doing business in the state.
Among the allegations, the office said that Smart Automotive:
-Made false claims to consumers, claiming ordinary sales were “Georgia’s only reprocessed vehicle event,” or “liquidation” sales events
-Told consumers they had won cars as prizes when they had not
-Misrepresented the monthly payments consumers would have to make on cars they bought
-Misrepresented the number of cars available for sale
-Claimed consumers with credit problems were pre-approved for loans of up to $30,000 when they had not been pre-approved
-Failed to list the number, odds and retail value of the promotional prizes offered at sales

When your agency name is Smart Automotive Group, well, you oughta be a bit…smarter about things.

This kind of stuff goes on all the time, and it’s not limited to automotive dealers or ad agencies that specialize in automotive. Although this article suggests that the Burst brothers have balls, particularly right after Hurricane Katrina:

Burst and his brother Benny, President of the Smart Automotive Group, made the decision to take all means necessary to get their companies back up and running once they knew that all of their employees and families were safe. “When you factor in all of our staff, customers and their families, over 500 people rely on us for their livelihood,” said Burst. “We understood the magnitude of that responsibility and knew we had to do everything possible to provide a sense of security and stability for people who in many cases lost everything they owned.”
To that end, Burst and his brother spent countless hours negotiating the military checkpoints and impassable terrain inside the city. At several points, the brothers were forced to swim among alligators and water moccasins in drainage canals to reach their inundated offices to obtain vital data and paperwork. The brothers also took other drastic measures including outfitting their IT staff with bulletproof vests so they could safely enter the French Quarter to repair their internet access. “We wanted to be among the first people in New Orleans to have power and internet access restored, and we were,” Burst said.

I guess bulletproof vests come in handy in the auto dealer ad business.

About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.