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AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Used car dealers didn't warn buyers about possible safety recalls, FTC says

In selling used cars, CarMax, Georgia-based Asbury Automotive Group and West-Herr Automotive Group advertised how rigorously they inspected them.

But the dealers didn't adequately disclose that some of the cars needed repairs because of safety recalls, the Federal Trade Commission charged.

On Friday, the three companies were ordered to mail notices to customers to let them know that vehicles they bought as far back as July 1, 2013, may still be subject to safety recalls.

The final orders also prohibit the companies from claiming that their vehicles are safe, have been repaired for safety issues or have been subject to a rigorous inspection unless the vehicles have no recalls pending. Otherwise, the companies must clearly and conspicuously disclose that their vehicles may be subject to recalls for safety issues and explain how the buyers can determine a vehicle's recall status.

There is no federal law that prohibits car dealers from selling used cars that are subject to open recalls. However, the commission told the consumers that its order will prohibit companies from misrepresenting the safety of the vehicles.

Some car dealers have been criticized for selling cars without disclosing recalls for such safety defects as exploding air bags.

The commission settled a similar case involving other dealers late last year, the New York Times reported.

The newspaper reported that some lawmakers said that settlement didn't do enough to protect car buyers.

Asbury Automotive Group, which does business as Crown Automotive Group and Coggin Automotive Group, is based in Duluth, Georgia. West-Herr is one of the largest dealers in New York. CarMax is the nation's largest used-car retailer, and has its headquarters in Virginia.

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About the Author

Lois Norder is Senior Editor for Investigations in the newsroom at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.