Mazda to Change Auto Lease Advertising and Pay States $1.2 Million

September 30, 1999e

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that his Consumer Protection Division has entered into a settlement with Mazda Motor of America Inc., regarding the auto maker's alleged violation of a 1996 order requiring clear disclosure of lease terms in its advertisements. Mazda agreed to change its national ads for auto leases and pay $50,000 to Maryland.

Mazda is paying a total of $1.2 million to Maryland and 23 other states that cooperated in the action with the Federal Trade Commission, which announced a similar settlement with the auto maker today.

The states alleged that Mazda violated a 1996 consent order which required the auto maker to clearly disclose key lease terms in its advertising, such as total up-front costs and the number, amount and timing of scheduled payments. The 1996 order settled deceptive advertising suits filed earlier by many of the states, including Maryland.

According to the states, Mazda television ads that aired in 1997 and 1998 continued to highlight low monthly payments while obscuring the total amount due at lease-signing. The states alleged that Mazda ads failed to show the total amount of payment due at lease signing for a sufficient time to be noticed and understood by consumers, and that because of distracting sounds, small type and other clutter, the ads failed to conform to disclosures required by the 1996 settlement.

"By burying in fine print a required down payment of close to $2,000, Mazda continued to mislead people about the total cost of leasing a car or truck," Attorney General Curran said.

The settlement announced today requires Mazda to make payments to the states and abide by the disclosure requirements included in the 1996 Maryland order, and it prohibits Mazda from misrepresenting the amount of up-front lease costs.

The other states involved in the settlement are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Auto leasing tips for consumers:

"Consumers considering leasing a car need to know what they are getting into," said Attorney General Curran. He gives these tips for consumers:

Attorney General Curran said consumers with complaints about auto leases or lease advertising should contact his Consumer Protection Division at (410) 528-8662.

For Further Information Contact:
Frank Mann
Special Assistant to the Attorney General
(410) 576-6357