North Carolina Attorney General Files Suit Due to Deceptive Used Car Sales Tactics

Defendants include HRI of Texas, Pro Automotive of Indiana, and owners Gordon Scott Hopkins and Charles Raymond Bergen

North Carolina Attorney General Files Suit Due to Deceptive Used Car Sales Tactics
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August 9, 2016

Deceptive advertising from a company hired to run used car sales has caught the eye of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office filed suit last week against HRI of Texas, related company Pro Automotive of Indiana, and owners Gordon Scott Hopkins and Charles Raymond Bergen for using false and misleading methods to promote used car sales. The complaint asks a Wake County Superior Court judge to ban the defendants from doing business in North Carolina and order them to pay refunds to any consumers who were harmed and civil penalties.

"Tricks and false promises aren't the right way to attract customers," Cooper said. "When promotion becomes deception, my office is here to protect consumers and businesses that play by the rules."

North Carolina dealerships Champion Ford of Rockingham, US 1 Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Sanford, and Stevenson Automotive of Goldsboro and Swansboro hired the defendants to publicize and run sales events through mailings, radio, newspaper, and online ads. These promotional materials:

  • Used phrases like "massive liquidation," "assembled for immediate sale," and "once in a lifetime event" to entice consumers, even though the cars offered for sale came from the dealers' regular inventory.
  • Promised low monthly payments, with additional fees disclosed only in tiny print or footnotes.
  • Implied that consumers had won or could win a prize and needed to come to the dealership to claim it.
  • Were made to look like scratch off games or simulated checks.

HRI and Gordon Hopkins have previously gotten in trouble for sending misleading mailings to consumers. A settlement achieved by Cooper in 2011 banned HRI and Hopkins from North Carolina. The Attorney General contends that in 2013 HRI began using the name Pro Automotive to try to conceal its violations of the ban.