Getting Customers on the Lot Without Crossing the Line

Many complaints and legal actions against auto dealers are the result of the way vehicles are advertised.  According to a joint survey by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA), and North American Consumer Protection Investigators (NACPI), the number one consumer complaint has been misrepresentations in advertising or sales of new and used cars.

Advertising violations are also a ripe target for regulators and consumer attorneys. To give you an idea of how dealer advertising is on the radar, consider the opinion published by the New York State Attorney General’s office: “This office’s review of current car ads has revealed a widespread pattern of deception and the use of materially false or misleading representations by some dealers. Rather than truthfully informing consumers, all too many ads appear designed primarily to confuse and mislead them. Such unscrupulous dealer ads are costly traps for unwary car buyers and are unfair to those dealers who compete on the basis of forthright and truthful advertising”.  You may also recall that in 2007, Bill Heard Chevrolet was faced with a $50 million deceptive advertising lawsuit by the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

Many dealers run into trouble with their advertising when staff members or outside vendors are not aware of the countless federal and state laws that regulate advertising.  Here are some practical tips on how to avoid advertising violations:

Jim Radogna is the President of Dealer Compliance Consultants, Inc., a San Diego, California training and consulting firm. He has more than 20 years of broad-based management, training and consulting experience in the automotive industry.

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