St. Michaels, Ariz. –The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission ("Commission"), through its public hearings and written complaints filed by elderly Navajo consumers, collected and analyzed data regarding automobile purchases made on the Navajo Nation and at dealerships located in border towns. The data suggest that border town automobile dealers, in particular, Tates Auto had the majority of the complaints, were alleged to commit unlawful and unfair business practices. "Many of our elderly Navajo consumers were taken advantage of and were put into positions where they were not able to afford to buy a used car or new vehicle" said Varvara Phillips, Navajo Nation Human Rights Investigator.
In 2014, the Commission forwarded the collected data and presented the findings to the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") for review. During the investigation Phillips played a significant role in providing information with the FTC regarding Commission cases that were filed against Tates and other dealerships surrounding the Navajo Nation.
On July 31, 2018, the FTC filed a complaint with U.S. District Court of Arizona against Tates Auto on falsifying consumer information on financing documents. The complaint states "Tates Auto increased consumer's monthly income and inflated amount of down payment when filling out consumers loan documents."
Phillips states "This is excellent news for our Navajo consumers. Though the process to get a complaint filed by FTC was lengthy, it was worth the wait. If it were not for our Navajo citizens who came forward to share their automobile purchases experience through public hearings and/or written complaints with Commission we would not have the data. Clearly the data collected was very important and helpful for FTC to pursue a formal complaint against Tates auto. These unlawful and unfair business practices by border town automobile dealers have gone on for too long. I hope the FTC complaint against Tates auto sends a message to other border town automobile dealers they need to comply with local, state and federal laws."
Leonard Gorman, Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission Executive Director, states "It is important to note that Navajo consumers in all areas of good and services are unfortunately preyed upon by border town businesses. That includes offering high interest rates, selling defective goods and falsifying information about Navajo consumers, all in the name of free enterprise. It is important for business to also protect and respect Navajo consumer human rights, which may include explaining the goods and services in the Navajo language."