Auto Dealership Settles Pricing Discrimination Allegations

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts auto dealership has agreed to pay $350,000 to resolve allegations that it charged Black and Hispanic customers more than white customers for certain add-on products such as paint protection and remote starters, the state attorney general's office said Tuesday.

The assurance of discontinuance also requires Hometown Auto Framingham Inc., which operates dealerships in Wellesley and Danvers, to provide staff training on implicit bias and the obligation not to discriminate when pricing products.

“Consumers need to know that their race or ethnicity will have absolutely no effect on the type of service they receive from Massachusetts auto dealerships or the prices they will be charged,” Attorney General Andrea Campbell said in a statement.

Add-on products are extra goods or services sold to consumers who purchase or lease a vehicle. The attorney general alleged that Hometown’s conduct violated the state’s Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive acts and practices in trade or commerce.

Hometown Auto said in a statement that it has consistently denied unfair pricing allegations aimed at Black and Latino customers.

“We have expended considerable effort and resources defending our integrity against these allegations and reached a decision that continuing to do so would take more of our valuable time away from our customers and their automotive needs,” the statement said.

Of the settlement, $200,000 will provide restitution to consumers and for several changes to the dealership's business practices.