In support of his argument plaintiff directs this court's attention to Azimi v. Ford Motor Company, 977 F. Supp. 847, 1996 WL 912470 (N.D.Ill. 1996). In that case the court found that plaintiff had sufficiently alleged that an authorized Ford dealer acted as the apparent agent of Ford by stating that "Ford's logo is displayed at [the dealer] and on the warranties the plaintiff received, that Ford issues technical bulletins to the dealerships detailing potential vehicle problems, that Ford trains the dealership personnel regarding its warranties, and that the only persons who may repair and maintain the vehicles under warranty are Ford-trained, dealership-based mechanics." Id. at *2. Plaintiff notes here that Highland is an authorized Ford dealer, and that "Highland informed plaintiff that Ford required that he pay an inspection fee of $ 612.95 before Ford would decide whether the problems which caused the mechanical breakdown were covered by the Extended Service Plan" (am.cplt.P15). Plaintiff has also alleged that the ESP directed him to take his car to "all participating Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers" for covered services (am.cplt. P10). While it is true, as defendant notes, that plaintiff's factual allegations are not as extensive as the plaintiff's in Azimi, we are dealing with notice pleading here and find that plaintiff's allegations are enough to survive this motion to dismiss. Further, we disagree with defendant's contention that we must reject plaintiff's apparent agency argument since he has not shown that Ford had knowledge of or consented to Highland's actions. We may reasonably infer from the fact that Highland had a "policy and practice" of imposing inspection fees, and failing to disclose their existence at the time of sale (am. cplt. PP19-20), that Ford possessed the requisite knowledge of Highland's conduct, and in any event, the issue is apparent, not actual, authority. Since plaintiff has adequately pled facts demonstrating the existence of an agency relationship between Ford and Highland in this case, we find that the complaint survives defendant's motion to dismiss on this issue.
Having determined that Ford may be liable under an "apparent agency" theory, we turn next to the issue of whether its agent's conduct states a claim for deceptive practices under the CFA. We think it does. While charging a fee in and of itself may not be deceptive under the CFA, we are dealing with more than that here.
Plaintiff is alleging that Highland misrepresented the cost of the ESP by failing to disclose the existence of a hidden inspection fee that was, to his surprise, imposed as a precondition to receiving covered services under the plan. Plaintiff was forced into a position where he either had to pay the substantial fee, which in this case constituted almost 40% of the value of the car, or be left without a functioning vehicle and unable to take advantage of the warranty plan for which he had already paid. We acknowledge that Highland may, as a general matter, be entitled to payment for the inspection services it renders. However, we think that plaintiff has alleged more than a simple fee-for-service arrangement here. Specifically, we find that plaintiff has sufficiently stated a claim of consumer fraud by alleging that Highland concealed the fee and/or misrepresented the cost of the ESP. See Aitken v. Fleet Mortgage Corp., 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1687, No. 90- C-3708, 1992 WL 33926, *4 (N.D.Ill. Feb. 12, 1992) ("A misrepresentation of the amount due in a manner designed to conceal the true amount required states a claim under the Consumer Fraud Act.").
Further, under the plain language of the CFA, the sale and distribution of services under the ESP occurred "in the conduct of any trade or commerce." 815 ILCS 505/2. The CFA defines the terms "trade" and "commerce" to mean the "advertising, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any services and any property. . . ." 815 ILCS 505/1(f). These terms are to be given a liberal construction so that the broad purposes of the CFA are achieved. See People ex. rel. Daley v. Datacom Sys. Corp., 176 Ill. App. 3d 697, 531 N.E.2d 839, 126 Ill. Dec. 212, (Ill.App. 1st Dist. 1988, aff'd 146 Ill. 2d 1, 585 N.E.2d 51, 165 Ill. Dec. 655 (1991). Clearly, Highland's sale of the ESP in connection with the sale of a used automobile and its subsequent provision of covered repair services constitutes the type of "trade or commerce" contemplated by the CFA.
Accordingly, we find that plaintiff has stated a claim for relief under the CFA against Ford and therefore deny Ford's motion to dismiss.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion to dismiss Count II is denied.
JAMES B. MORAN
Senior Judge, U.S. District Court
November 20, 1997.