AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Better Business Bureau has issued an alert against Capitol KIA, accusing the dealership of practicing bait-and-switch tactics in its advertising.
And the Austin dealership that boasts in its ads on KXAN News and elsewhere that "if it can't beat a competitor's deal on a vehicle, it will just give it to you" pushed back hard.
The story starts with Austin resident Robert Munzer. He told KXAN News he was looking for a new SUV for his wife. He went to Capitol KIA's website . He found an advertised KIA Sorrento at what he described as a good price.
Then called the dealership.
"The salesperson got back to me and said, ‘Sure, come on up and take a look at it,'" said Munzer.
But when Munzer got there, he said the advertised SUV he called about was nowhere to be found.
"It had been sold the night before, supposedly, and then it was on an extended test drive," Munzer said. "But they were more than willing to show, sell me a vehicle that was $5,000 to $8,000 more," he continued.
Better Business Bureau officials said Munzer is not alone. In the past three years, 31 consumers have filed complaints against Capitol KIA alleging that the dealership "is not following up on their promises in their advertisements."
"They believe that they are victims of bait-and-switch advertising sales tactic," said BBB spokeswoman Erin Dufner.
Bait-and-switch is a strong allegation. The Federal Trade Commission defines it as – "When a business advertises or offers to sell a product that it does not intend or want to sell. The business then then attempts to sell alternate items usually at a higher price or on a basis more advantageous to the advertiser.
Capitol Kia Executive Vice President Bill Dickason, who delivers the dealership's tagline in the TV commercials, has a much different take.
"If I don't have the car and I only have one, yeah, that's bait-and-switch," said Dickason. "But I still have one car like that on my lot in Dallas -- OK, we sell those vehicles."
Dickason said his staff is dedicated to the customer, not the Better Business Bureau.
"I'm an award-winning dealer in customer service and satisfaction," Dickason told KXAN News. "I am not a member of the BBB."
Dickason said the dealership cut ties with the BBB years ago. And outside of the past three months, he has not been told about complaints by customers.
And he fired back at the BBB.
"They get their revenue from these businesses so if you're not paying, there's an incentive to drive down your score to what? To encourage you to pay," Dickason said.
"Especially when we're getting numerous complaints from consumers complaining about advertising, we really would like to work with Capital KIA to being these issues to their attention and really try to work this out for free," she said.
Dufner said the Better Business Bureau sent its own investigator to look for a vehicle advertised online, and when the investigator got to the dealership, the vehicle was not there.
As for the alleged bait-and-switch in the advertising, Dickason adamantly denies it, and said he would not have tens of thousands of happy customers if his dealership was not completely honest.
He also said that although he will not join the Better Business Bureau, he will work with them to satisfy any and all of his customers' issues, if they arise.
Dufner said they have reached-out to Capitol KIA, by phone, mail and email.
If these two sides get together, we'll let you know what happens.
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