What 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.
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.