Pep Boys, Advance Auto accused of overcharging NJ customers
Authorities are alleging Pep Boys and Advance Auto stores overcharged customers throughout New Jersey — ringing up merchandise at higher prices than posted, or sometimes without ever posting prices at all.
“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 announcing civil complaints filed against the companies. "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."
The complaints were filed in Essex County Superior Court by the New Jersey Division Consumer Affairs, through its Office of Consumer Protection and its Office of Weights and Measures
Advance Stores operates its Advance Auto locations throughout New Jersey, including East Orange, Newark, Linden, East Brunswick, Bloomfield, Avenel, and Fanwood.
According to the announcement, DCA inspections found the stores had a variety of items — including oil filters, transmission fluid, engine oil and polish – that scanned at a higher price than the posted selling price.
Merchandise at the Advance Auto stores in East Orange, Newark, Linden, Bloomfield, Avenel, and Fanwood was offered for sale without a plainly marked total selling price affixed to the merchandise or located at the point of display, the announcement said. That included a stainless steel self-tapping pan head, anti-freeze, a snowbrush, deicer and lubricant, repair manuals, engine oil and windshield washer.
Pep Boys also operates stores throughout the state, including in East Brunswick, Union, Roselle, Caldwell and Verona.
DCA inspections there, too, found items ringing up at higher prices than posed, officials said. That included including a car cover, cell phone charger, battery terminal protector, automatic transmission fluid and halogen capsules.
Officials also say that at Pep Boys stores in East Brunswick, Roselle, Caldwell and Verona, items didn't have clearly marked prices, including: air fresheners, tires, license plate mounts and motor oil.
The complaint alleges that the Pep Boys stores in Roselle, Caldwell and Verona failed to conspicuously post the consumer notice regarding the right to a written estimate for motor vehicle repairs, as required by automotive repair regulations.
Advertising items at lower prices, then scanning them at higher prices would violate both the Consumer Fraud Act and the Weights and Measures Act. Failure to display a price would be a CFA violation.
“When it came to merchandise pricing, we allege that Advance Auto and Pep Boys left consumers in the dark,” Steve Lee, acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said in the statement released Friday. “These enforcement actions send a message that merchants who attempt to engage in this kind of deceptive conduct will face legal action.”
The DCA is seeking civil penalties, as well as attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.