McGraw

CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw has reached an agreement with a Kanawha Valley car dealership over prize compensation from a 2008 promotion.

Last year, Beford South Point Ford Inc., which does business in West Virginia under the name Beford Family Preowned Auto Superstore in St. Albans, had mailed consumers a flyer that stated they had won one of the following prizes: a car, cash prizes, or a card redeemable for $300.00 in gas or other merchandise at participating service stations. When consumers went to claim their $300 gift card, they learned there were strings attached, according to McGraw's office.

Consumers were given a voucher to complete and mail to FreeBeeGas.com and were required to pay a $5 refundable activation fee and wait up to six weeks for their voucher to be processed. Only then did consumers discover that in order to obtain their "free" gas, they first had to purchase $100 of the same brand of gas and send their receipts to FreeBeeGas.com. For every $100 worth of receipts they mailed in, they received a $25 gift card. It would require $1,200 in receipts for them to receive the full value of the offer.

"It is unlawful to notify consumers that they have won something, but in order to claim it they have to purchase something," McGraw said in a press release. "The dealership also failed to advise consumers of all the hoops they would have to jump through to get their free gas-a clear violation of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act."

Under the agreement, Beford has agreed to send a check in the amount of $300 to any consumer who files a complaint with the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division by June 25 and provide proof that they paid the $5 activation fee in response to the gas card promotion.

"Consumers must always be wary of offers for free gifts and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," McGraw said in the release.

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