Is it legal to advertise like this?

A co-worker came to work a couple of days ago with a letter from a car dealership. It was titled “Tax Rebate Supplemental Program” and said (paraphrasing) “Many people know about the tax rebates passed by congress, but did you know that congress also passed a bill to give back more money than just the rebates. Now you can take advantage of this program by coming to our car sale”. It had a fake check for $2400 which said “Tax Rebate Supplement” on it, and said “not valid” in several places but material hinted that if you bought a used car, you could take advantage of the governments “supplemental” rebate program and get $2400 cash back.

It’s obviously a sleazy gimmick, but is it legal to advertise a government program like that? I don’t know if the government program even exists, but, if it does, I’m sure it isn’t for one dealership in the area to give cash if someone buys a used car at their sale.

I don’t see why it wouldn’t be legal (underhanded, sure, but that’s the auto industry’s stock-in-trade), since it’s apparently factually correct:

There are Federal incentives for buying hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles… was there anything in the literature to indicate what product the rebate check was trying to induce you to buy?

I’m missing it. How does extending unemployment and giving businesses breaks for losses or equipment costs relate?

I thought about that but it didn’t say anything about hybrids plus it seemed to be for used cars (they advertised some as low as $59 down and $59 a month and didn’t say anything about new cars).

Car dealerships are businesses. They may be claiming that they are “passing these breaks on to the consumer.”

I’d have to have the papers to make sure, and they were thrown away so I guess that won’t be happening, but it was pretty clear that they were saying congress had enacted an extra tax rebate (in addition to the economic stimulus thing) for car buyers. I had to read it several times to believe what they were actually saying.

Yes it’s illegal, and they just don’t care.
Lots of advertisers get many thousands of complaints before anyone acts, and they can continue for years before their case is heard, and then they can dissolve and all blame the accountants ala Enron.

Right now there is a blatant ad saying the mint is giving away new president dollar coins. But when you read a bit you realize you get one “free” when you buy a few rolls at a premium over face value. This one has been reported as one of the most recent garnering thousands of complaints. But the people who see through and report it do not suffer a loss.

The feds aren’t like your local cop that any citizen can summon. You have to get an agency to sue, an agency that is already tied up in umpty-dozen other lawsuits. So your complaint will just wait in line until it’s too old to pursue.

Do you have a cite for this, or is it merely your own opinion?

Based solely on the representation of the ad here, and the FTC’s Truth in Advertising FAQ, it appears that this ad may fall afoul of e.g.15 USC 2 I § 52 “Dissemination of false advertisements” (sorry, I know I have the citation format wrong), however it’s been my experience that US Postal Inspectors are much more responsive, and willing to put the fear of God into a scamming advertiser, even if they don’t prosecute. You could file a complaint online, but it would really help if you still had the ad.