My appearance before the Senate Commerce Committee went quite well yesterday.
The Senators allowed me all the time I needed to make my presentation. I gave them copies of newspaper ads illustrating my objections to the dealer fee and copies of my presentation.
Many of the Senators on the committee asked me questions which were very supportive and positive.
Several people from the Florida Automobile Dealers Association testified, including dealers Chris Craft and Herb Yardley and Ted Smith the President of FADA. The committee was negative toward most of their testimony and this was reflected by their questions. Several Senators challenged the speakers on their misstatements of fact and obvious contradictions.
The Senate committee is preparing a bill which will be sent to the House for endorsement and then to Governor Crist to be signed into law. I don’t expect anything drastic like making dealer fees illegal but I do feel that there will be a lot more disclosure required and I do feel there will be a lot more enforcement of the existing and new law.
Please check out the article that appeared in today's Sun-Sentinel about yesterday's hearing:
Senate panel takes up crusade against auto dealership fees
By Joshua Hafenbrack
March 5, 2008
In South Florida car dealer Earl Stewart's ubiquitous TV ad testimonials, he likes to point out he doesn't charge "dealer fees." He even started a radio show and a blog to rail against the fees charged by many of his competitors in Palm Beach and Broward counties.They're the often-hidden costs — running $500 or more in many cases — tacked onto a car's price once customers are hauled into a back office to fill out financing papers.Now Stewart's fight against dealer fees has moved to the state Legislature, with a Senate committee agreeing Tuesday to craft consumer protections that would require greater transparency about the fees that usually aren't included in price quotes or Internet advertising.Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee, Stewart, who owns a Toyota dealership in North Palm Beach, said dealer fees are meant to obscure a car's real price from customers and pad dealers' profit margins."It prohibits the legitimate dealer from competing on a level playing field," said Stewart, a Fort Lauderdale native whose family has been in the car business in South Florida since 1937.After hearing testimony from South Florida car dealers on both sides of the issues, the Senate panel moved to draft legislation to require dealers to disclose dealer fees in their cars' sticker prices.This approach doesn't go as far as 13 other states that have capped dealer fees, with limits ranging from $45 to $250, according to Senate investigators.Herbert Yardley, whose owns Massey Yardley Chrysler Jeep in Plantation, said the $599 dealer fee he charges is just one part of arriving at a car's overall price, a process he described as an "art, not a science." "I don't know that the state does belong in pricing," Yardley told senators. "Please let pricing be an individual issue."Josh Hafenbrack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-224-6214.