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State reaches settlement with Toyota over unintended acceleration

Published On: Feb 14 2013 10:08:43 PM CST

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on Thursday joined 28 other states and American Samoa in announcing a $29 million settlement with Toyota Motor Corporation and its related North American entities over allegations, among other things, that Toyota misled the public regarding safety issues related to unintended acceleration.

Toyota agreed to pay $29 million to settle consumer protection claims and has agreed to provide additional restitution to certain vehicle owners to promote compliance with the covered safety recalls.

As a result of the settlement, Wisconsin will receive $674,001.03, and Toyota will be restricted from advertising the safety of vehicles without sound scientific or engineering data to back such safety claims.

"This settlement is significant in that it helps to ensure the car maker abides by Wisconsin law and, importantly, sends a message to others who look to engage in similar advertising behavior," Van Hollen said in a statement.

In a complaint filed Thursday, the state of Wisconsin alleged, among other things, that Toyota and its related North American subsidiaries made advertisements, statements and representations that were untrue, deceptive or misleading as to Toyota motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment being safe and reliable. In the Stipulated Final Judgment also submitted Thursday for the court’s review and approval, Toyota and its related North American subsidiaries do not admit any wrongdoing or any violation of the applicable Wisconsin law.

A Wisconsin Department of Justice news release said that, among other things, the settlement provides that Toyota is, for a period of at least four years:

• Prohibited from reselling a vehicle it reacquired which the consumer alleged was not in conformity with the new vehicle limited warranty until such vehicle is inspected and any identifiable defect is repaired, and without first notifying the purchaser of the alleged nonconformity or defect, of the reported concerns leading to Toyota’s decision to reacquire the vehicle and certifying and warranting that the reacquired vehicle has no identifiable defect;
• Prohibited from representing in any advertisements that a vehicle is safest or safer unless that representation is supported by competent and reliable scientific or engineering evidence and Toyota clearly and conspicuously discloses the information necessary to place the representation in an accurate context, including the vehicle for which the claim is made and the design, feature, equipment or aspect of performance for which the claim is made;
• Prohibited, in any advertisements, from making any representation regarding the safety, performance, reliability, resale value or durability of any specific vehicle or any vehicle component or system without possessing competent and reliable scientific or engineering evidence that reasonably substantiates each claim;
• Prohibited from misrepresenting the purpose of an inspection or repair when directing consumers to take their vehicles to a dealer for inspection or repair, and
• Required to exclude from the “Toyota Certified Used Vehicles,” “Toyota Certified Used Hybrids,” “Scion Certified Pre-Owners,” or “Lexus Certified Pre-Owned” programs any vehicle acquired through lemon law proceedings or voluntarily repurchased by Toyota to ensure customer satisfaction.

Consumers in need of assistance may contact Toyota at 1-800-331-4331, or Lexus at 1-800-255-3987.

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