Some of my regular readers will recall that I testified before the Florida Senate Commerce Committee a few years ago. My purpose was to introduce legislation to make the dealer fee illegal in Florida. The bill never got out of the senate committee because it was “shot down” by the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, FADA, which is referred to as and pronounced fah-dah. For those who don’t already know, FADA is a powerful lobby for the car dealers. They have a lot of money because car dealers make a lot of money and can donate a lot of money to their political action committees, PAC’s. In full disclosure, I have donated to FADA political action committees in the past and continue to do so. That’s because they protect car dealers against harmful action by the auto manufacturers, but I abhor the way FADA protects car dealers that advertise and sell cars in deceptive, unethical, and even illegal ways.
A big reason that I was defeated in that effort was that the attorneys at the hearing representing the Florida Attorney General (AG) told the panel of senators that they received relatively few complaints on car dealers charging dealer fees. In fact, they received many more complaints on other businesses like storm shutter installers and paving contractors. The AG lawyers said they had to focus their limited resources on those businesses that had the most number of complaints. Of course, the lawyers from FADA completely concurred with that excuse.
Hence, I’m writing this article on “How to file a car dealer complaint with the Florida Attorney General”. There’s no question in my mind that most car owners in south Florida have a “beef” with a car dealer that they bought, leased, or serviced their car with. In fact, it’s not just south Florida, it’s the entire country. The Gallup organization conducts a national poll every year asking us which businesses we consider the most honest and ethical. Car dealers finish last almost every year (Congressmen are usually next to last).
I’m not sure why more victims of car dealers don’t file complaints with the regulatory agencies. I do know why car dealers do not receive as much negative publicity as they deserve and that’s because the local media is afraid of them. Car dealers are the largest local advertisers and they spend a huge amount of money on advertising that newspapers and TV and radio stations rely on. You may know that car dealers banded together to force Seaview Radio (WSVU in North Palm Beach) to cancel my consumer advocate show, Earl Stewart on Cars, which had been on the air for 7 years. They told the owners and management of Seaview that they would not advertise unless my show was canceled. Perhaps it’s the lack of reporting by our local media on how car dealers deceive car buyers with their advertising and sales practices that makes for so few complaints being filed.
If everyone who reads this column/blog who has been wronged by a car dealer will take the time to file a complaint with the Florida Attorney General’s office, I’m confident that we will see some immediate action. Because of my role as an advocate for car buyers, I hear from dozens of victims of car dealers every month. If those same people would also file a complaint, car dealers would rise on the priority list of companies that are ripping of Florida consumers so that the AG would be able to allocate their limited resources to control and curtail unethical, deceptive, and illegal advertising and sales practices by car dealers.
Please click on this link, www.FileAComplaintFloridaAttorneyGeneral.com and file a complaint. You may also call the Office of Citizen Services at 850 414-3990 or the Fraud Hotline at 866 966-7226. I know you’ve complained to your friends and neighbors and maybe even to me. But now it’s time to complain to somebody who can stop these car dealers from taking advantage of you.