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New Jersey auto dealers will pay $1.8 million to settle customer complaints

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters/File

(Read caption) A dog looks out of a car window while stopped in traffic during a snowstorm on I-95 in New Jersey Dec. 26, 2010. A group of New Jersey auto dealers have to pay $1.8 million to settle complaints from consumers about their deceptive practices.

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When it comes to honesty and ethics, car dealers don't score well with consumers. On a scale of one to 100, American recently rated dealers a nine, just above members of Congress (eight) and lobbyists (six).

A group of dealers in New Jersey aren't doing anything to improve that score

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The group – known as the "Route 22" group – includes eight dealerships owned by Carmelo Guiffre and Ignazio Guiffre. The list of dealerships includes Route 22 Toyota, Route 22 Honda, Route 22 Nissan, and Route 22 Kia, in Hillside, New Jersey; Hackettstown Honda; Hudson Honda in West New York; and Freehold Hyundai and Freehold Chrysler Jeep.

New Jersey's consumer affairs division received complaints from 45 of Route 22's customers. They alleged that dealers in the group failed to honor advertised prices, charged shoppers for extra items and warranties that they hadn't requested, and refused to refund deposits on cars that were never bought. At least a few complaints also say that the dealerships advertised vehicles without VINs, which prevented shoppers from researching their accident and repair histories.

Yesterday, the group settled the case through arbitration, admitting no guilt and forking over some $1.8 million in compensation. 

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that Route 22 has come under fire: in 1999, the same group coughed up $450,000 to settle similar claims. Perhaps some businesses are taking the state's "liberty and prosperity" motto a tad too far.