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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Court holds Arizona car dealerships violated TILA and CLA

Courts FTC Enforcement TILA CLA FTC Act Auto Finance

Courts

On February 5, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona granted in part and denied in part summary judgment in favor of the FTC, concluding the owners of a car dealership with locations in Arizona and New Mexico (collectively, “defendants”) failed to include legally required information in violation of TILA and the Consumer Leasing Act (CLA). As previously covered by InfoBytes, in August 2020, the FTC brought charges against the defendants for violations of TILA, the CLA, and FTC Act, on the grounds that the defendants purportedly falsified consumers’ income and down payments on credit applications in order to make the consumers seem more creditworthy, which resulted in consumers “default[ing] at a higher rate than properly qualified buyers.” The FTC asserted that these advertising practices were deceptive in that they concealed the true nature and terms of the financing or leasing offers and thus were in violation of federal law for failing to disclose the required terms.

Subsequently, the corporate defendants stipulated to a permanent injunction and monetary judgment and the FTC moved for summary judgment against the co-owners. As against the owners, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the FTC on the TILA and CLA claims, concluding that the advertisements were “missing legally required information such as the terms of repayment or the annual percentage rate.” However, the court denied summary judgment as to the FTC Act claims, after the defendants provided declarations from a small sample of consumers admitting to knowing the down payment and income information was misreported. The court determined that based on the declarations, a reasonable jury could infer that “consumers were not likely deceived or misled, only led astray and persuaded to participate in a lie.” However, the court did not grant full relief requested by the FTC. In particular, the court did not grant summary judgment on the FTC Act claims and held it was premature to hold one of the owners individually responsible for the TILA and CLA claims. Provided these findings presented unresolved factual issues, the court found reason to delay the entry of judgment.

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