Settlement Requires Poulin Auto to Pay $15,000 in Consumer Restitution
Contact: Charity R. Clark, Chief of Staff, 802-828-3171
Attorney General T.J. Donovan today announced a settlement with Barre auto dealer Poulin Auto Sales, Inc. over complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) concerning Poulin Auto’s business practices, including a deceptive direct mail advertisement. As part of the settlement, Poulin Auto agreed to change certain business practices, pay a civil penalty of $5,000 to the State of Vermont, and provide restitution to consumers totaling $15,000.
“I am pleased that Poulin Auto has agreed to implement new protocols and policies to ensure more transparent sales practices,” said Attorney General Donovan.
Between 2014 and 2019, CAP received 84 complaints against Poulin Auto for issues including failure to timely respond to post-sale mechanical and operating complaints, failure to timely send in registration materials, mismanagement of financing paperwork, and failure to honor vehicle warranties.
In addition, in June 2017, Poulin Auto, through a direct marketing company, sent approximately 40,000 mailings to prospective consumers advertising a contest in which recipients could win $25,000 in cash, a flat screen TV, an Apple Watch, or a $500, $100, or $5 Walmart gift card. Consumers filed complaints that they thought they had won a significant prize, causing them to travel to a Poulin Auto dealership, only to discover that they had won a $5 gift card.
Under the settlement, Poulin Auto has agreed to change its business practices and has committed to responding more quickly to consumer complaints in the following ways:
- Assigning a dedicated individual to respond timely to complaints;
- Rejoining the Vermont Vehicle and Automotive Distributors Association (VADA), which manages an arbitration program for handling auto dealer-related complaints;
- Implementing sales and business practices training for sales and finance personnel.
Poulin Auto is also required to establish a $15,000 restitution fund. Consumers who filed complaints with CAP against Poulin Auto between January 1, 2017 and April 30, 2021, which were not resolved through CAP’s mediation process, will be eligible for restitution. Many of these consumers will be contacted directly by the Attorney General’s Office in the next 30 days and will receive a restitution check in the amount of $500. Consumers who had filed complaints with CAP and have questions about their eligibility for restitution may contact CAP by emailing AGO.CAP@vermont.gov or calling 800-649-2424 by October 30, 2021.
A copy of the settlement can be found here.