(866) 9- NO- SCAM; (866) 966-7226
About three years ago I testified before the Florida state Senate Commerce Commission about making the dealer fee illegal. As you probably know I was not successful but have carried on my efforts through TV, radio and newspaper ads, this column, my Saturday morning show on Seaview 95.9 FM, and numerous public speaking engagements. My efforts have been somewhat successful in that my two closest Toyota competitors dropped their dealer fee last June because they were losing their customer to me.
The Florida Attorney General, Bill McCollum, had a representative at the Senate Commerce Committee testifying at the same time I did. The committee asked the assistant AG why they did not prosecute those car dealers who violated the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act with respect to dealer fees. He responded that they were understaffed and also that they did not receive a lot of complaints about this. Now, I personally believe that the AG’s office receives a lot more complaints on the dealer fee than they know about. Why do I say this? The assistant AG admitted that they did not file consumer complaints against car dealers by “type”. In other words they have a virtually useless database which makes it impossible to figure out who is complaining about what.
This recollection is what inspired this column. What if I could spread the word to call the AG’s own Fraud Hotline such that they received so many complaints on the dealer fee that they can’t ignore it even with a lousy filing system?
OK, now here’s the law taken right from the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practice Act: “The advertised price must include all fees or charges that the customer must pay, including freight or destination charges, dealer preparation charge, and charges for undercoating or rust proofing. State and local fees, and title fees, unless otherwise required by local law or standard, need not be disclosed.” Simply stated, if you responded to an advertisement by a car dealer, bought the advertised car, and he charged you more than the advertised price (plus tax and tag only), he broke the law and owes you the extra charges. The dealer is also subject to very large fines from the AG and possible suspension or revocation of his license to sell cars by the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles…not to mention class action suits to recoup overcharges to thousands of his customers. If you would like to read the official Senate summary of the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act pertaining to car dealers you can click on this link, www.DealerFeeFraud.com.
In last Saturday’s Palm Beach Post I saw several car dealers’ advertisements on cars with fine print saying that the prices were “plus dealer fee”. Some dealers are also advertising that the prices are plus dealer fee and freight or destination fee. Delay Mazda, Napleton Nissan (Riviera Beach) and Ft. Pierce Nissan are three dealerships that are charging twice for freight. Freight is already included by the manufacturer in the invoice you pay. The amount added to advertised price is about $1,500! There are some dealers who don’t even mention the dealer fee in the fine print but just add it onto the price when you come in.
If you bought an advertised car in Florida you probably paid more than the ad price plus tax and tag. If you did, you have a legitimate beef with the dealer. The dealer should refund you the overcharge plus interest. If not, you should report him to Bill McCollum, our Attorney General, by calling 866 966-7226.