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Come Get a Stimulus Check (Not Really, but I Can Sell You a Car), FTC Files Suit

financial services lawWhat do a stimulus check and a car lot have in common? Nothing, and that is the basis of the Federal Trade Commission’s recently filed complaint against a Louisiana-based marketing company and its owner.

The company sent out a mailer that essentially told Florida consumers to come on down to the designated local relief headquarters to get a stimulus check under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The mailer even had a mock check for over $3,000 from the “Stimulus Relief Program.” It had to be real because the mailer also was branded by an emblem similar to the Great Seal of the United States.

Consumers flocked to the address, only to arrive at a lot that was selling cars. To be fair, the program identified itself as being similar to the program enacted under the CARES Act. Take a look at the mailer

The marketing company and its owner have been in the crosshairs of regulators in the past with prior law enforcement actions in Kansas and Indiana.

And back in April, the Florida Office of the Attorney General filed its complaint against the company related to these matters. The dealership cooperated with the Florida investigation, entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance and paid out some money. 

Sound outrageous? This marketing campaign is actually a twist on one that is commonplace where a fake check is sent to a consumer related to a special automobile program.

Given the economic distress faced by the auto industry, many businesses are likely to be swayed by direct marketing companies and engage in such campaigns. In the current regulatory environment, marketing efforts that pull in the pandemic and a stimulus program will be a hot area for investigations.

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Jessica Lesser is Of Counsel to Maurice Wutscher in Dallas. Jessica is a proven civil trial attorney with expertise in the regulatory framework of consumer finance, lending, and technology. A former managing attorney in the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas, she has two decades of litigation and regulatory compliance experience and is board certified in consumer and commercial law. Her leadership roles in private practice, state government, and within corporations demonstrate her adaptability and ability to provide solutions in highly regulated environments. Her extensive litigation experience provides for efficient and responsive results that are customized to a client’s needs. Jessica is the former chair of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization Advisory and Exam Commission for the consumer and commercial law specialization exam and past chair of the Consumer and Commercial Law Section, State Bar of Texas. For more information, see https://mauricewutscher.com/attorneys/jessica-lesser/

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