Chevrolet megadealer Bill Heard Enterprises is sparring with the Georgia state government over charges of deceptive advertising that was allegedly intended to scare consumers into bringing in their vehicles for service work.
The state's Office of Consumer Affairs has filed a civil suit seeking $50 million in damages against the four Bill Heard dealerships in Georgia, including its flagship store in Columbus.
The suit involves Heard's mailing of a flyer to thousands of consumers. It allegedly resembles a GM recall notice but no recall had been authorized by the auto maker, according to James Doyle, administrator of the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act.
The state's suit follows the dealership group's litigation against the state, Bill Heard's vice-president for business-customer relations, Kent Illges, says in a statement, hinting at governmental retaliation.
The Heard suit says state authorities had refused to provide the dealerships with information under the Georgia Open Records Act.
Illges says dealership attorneys reviewed the disputed notice but a printer never made marked changes. The direct-mail campaign was discontinued after the communications breakdown, Illges said.
Bill Heard Enterprises refused to pay a $45,000 fine asked by the state in a settlement bid, claiming Georgia lacked the authority to impose penalties for violations that were “not willful.”