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Four used-car dealers are cited

Four used-car dealerships in Tampa have been charged with failing to post "Buyer's Guide" information in car windows and violating other Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, the U.S. Attorney General's office announced Tuesday. The four cases were among 27 filed nationwide after an investigative sweep of 500 used-car lots in seven cities.

Three of the four Tampa defendants already have reached financial settlements with the government. The agreements, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court, do not constitute an admission of wrongdoing.

The Tampa dealerships are Hub Auto Sales, 3120 E Hillsborough Ave., which settled for $20,000; Finance Auto Sales, 4700 E Hillsborough Ave., which settled for $7,500; and Carrollwood Auto Sales Inc., 4123 Gunn Highway, which settled for $5,000.

A fourth dealership, Clean Cars of Tampa Inc., received a complaint, which is an allegation filed by the FTC when there is reason to think that a law has been violated, but no finding of actual violations. This case also will be settled in U.S. District Court, officials said.

Federal regulations require that Buyer's Guide information, listing warranty information and who to contact if a problem should arise, be posted on each vehicle offered for sale.

Dealers are required to provide a Buyer's Guide in Spanish if the sale is conducted in Spanish and to honor the guide as part of the sale contract.

Robert Stelzenmuller, owner of Finance Auto Sales, said Tuesday he felt the citings were unfair.

"I can stand here on my lot and see dealers up and down the street that aren't in compliance," he said. "To single me out like that _ I think that's big-time wrong."

Stelzenmuller said many area dealers have worse compliance records than his business, but have not been investigated.

Charles Bayle, owner of Carrollwood Auto Sales Inc., said in his case, "It was just a matter of not having (the Buyer's Guides) in the actual windows."

John Hagan of Hub Auto Sales said his company is now in full compliance with FTC regulations.

Also cited was a Palm Harbor dealership, P & H Motors Inc., which settled for $7,000.

The investigation of cases from the middle district of Florida was conducted by the FTC's Atlanta office, with assistance from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department, the Hillsborough County Department of Consumer Affairs and the Orange County Consumer Fraud Unit.