BBB investigates advertising claims for car dealership promotion

Consumer questions $25,000 promotion

EUCLID, Ohio - A promotion at a Euclid Honda dealership is raising questions with consumers and the Better Business Bureau.

A total of 60,000 flyers were sent to Northeast Ohio mailboxes alerting residents to a sale at Rick Case Honda. The offer prompted one consumer to call 5 On Your Side, and our investigation prompted an investigation at the Better Business Bureau.

"Strike it rich. Play the $25,000 lottery game," said Victoria Nikiforov, who received one of the flyers.

We showed the ad to the BBB because it's an organization with roots in finding the truth in advertising. Some of the claims concerned the BBB.

"There's a lot here. It's a little confusing," Greater Cleveland BBB Vice President, Sue McConnell said. "We will be contacting the dealer about some of the things we see in here."

It's easy to see that you may win $25,000, a 2011 Honda Accord EX, $100 cash or three gold coins.

What's much harder to see -- your odds of winning.

Nikiforov didn't read the fine print right away. She was too excited when she scratched off the winning numbers and saw that "only one card needs to match to win."

When she showed up at the dealership, the focus wasn't on the prize but on buying a car.

"One of the questions was what kind of car do we have, what we do for a living, and what our income was and things like that," Nikiforov said.

The same questions were asked of our NewsChannel5 producer. He went into the dealership with a hidden camera and his winning flyer. The salesman was upfront.

"This is a car dealereship. We are trying to sell cars," the salesman said.

Our producer reminded the salesman of why he was there.

"I'm here to see what I won," said our producer.

That's when he found out his winning flyer only qualified him to play "another" $25,000 dollar instant win scratch off game. Those details are in the fine print.

After some scratching, our producer didn't win.

The salesman joked, "I ain't taking you to Vegas."

Nikiforov didn't win either.

"Its not fair. It's putting your hopes up you won something," Nikiforov said.

The flyer said even if you don't win the big prize you win a consolation prize -- three gold coins.

Our producer and Nikiforov both walked away with nothing.

The general manager at Rick Case Honda said he's not sure why that happened because the dealership has given out 2,200 gold coins.

"It's not a very good tactic for a marketing department," Nikiforov said.

BBB raises concerns with some of the ad's claims
The marketing for the prize is one thing. The Better Business Bureau said the marketing for the sale is their concern.

"How can you substantiate you are offering the max dollar for trade in?" Sue McConnell questioned.

The BBB has its own set of voluntary standards, and there are state laws for advertising.

"The State of Ohio has issues with dealers advertising MSRP as a price comparison for a used vehicle," McConnell said.

The State Attorney General won't comment on this case, but in an email a spokesperson said, "'MSRP' may only be used to refer to the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for a new motor vehicle. An advertised price for a used vehicle may not be compared to the MSRP or new vehicle invoice price for that vehicle."

The BBB is sending a letter to the dealer. It's a common practice at the BBB, as it is always reviewing auto advertisements.

"Many times advertisers will substantiate their claims. Many times they'll discontinue their claims, or they'll modify them so they are more clear that they are truthful," McConnell said.

The general manager for Rick Case Honda would not talk on camera, but said it will address the MSRP issue with its advertiser.

The dealership said this is a legitimate offer and it wants to give away the $25,000.

Before Nikiforov responds to another big prize, she said she'll ask more questions.

"Be aware of the fine print and don't jump to conclusions too fast," Nikiforov explained.

No matter what business is advertising, always pay attention to the fine print. Next to many of the claims there is an asterisk or number that refers to the fine print.

It's the fine print you should really focus on, and not the large print.

The BBB contacted NewsChannel5 late Friday with an update.

Rick Case told the BBB it wants to comply with the BBB's request and state law to keep its A+ rating. The company that processed the mailing has agreed to make changes and it canceled a mailing scheduled to go out on Monday.

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