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January 08, 2016

DCA: Pep Boys, Advance Auto deceptively overcharged N.J. customers

Automotive supply stores accused of ringing up customers above marked prices at locations throughout New Jersey

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has filed a complaint alleging that Philadelphia-based Pep Boys and Advance Auto charged customers above marked retail prices in stores throughout the state.

The civil complaint, filed in Essex County Superior Court through the DCA's Office of Consumer Protection and Office of Weights and Measures, accuses both companies of ringing up a range of products – from oil filters and transmission fluid to engine oil and polish – at higher prices than customers expected. 

“For many consumers, a trip to the automotive parts store can be a confusing foray into unfamiliar territory,” acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said Friday in a statement. “Shoppers who lack familiarity with such merchandise often rely on the retailers pricing statements to guide them in their purchases. When retailers are not transparent and accurate in their pricing, consumers suffer.”

Inspectors with the DCA found that Advance Auto stores in East Orange, Newark, Linden, Bloomfield, Avenal, and Fanwood had pricing discrepancies on products including anti-freeze, snowbrushes, engine oils, lubricants and windshield washers, among other products.

Pep Boys locations in Roselle, Caldwell and Verona were found to have inaccurately marked prices on products such as air fresheners, motor oils, license plate mounts, and tires. The complaint also alleges that Pep Boys failed to post a mandated written notice that customers have a right to a written estimate for repair work.

Pep Boys was recently the subject of a highly publicized bidding war between Bridgestone and business magnate Carl Icahn. Late last month, Bridgestone bowed out and Pep Boys, founded in Philadelphia in 1921, was acquired by Icahn Enterprises for $1 billion.

The allegations, if proven true, would be a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act and the Weights and Measures Act. In its complaint, the New Jersey DCA is seeking civil penalties, attorney fees and investigative costs.

"When it came to merchandise pricing, we allege that Advance Auto and Pep Boys left consumers in the dark," said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. "These enforcement actions send a message that merchants who attempt to engage in this kind of deceptive conduct will face legal action."

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 or 973-504- 6200.