Monday, May 25, 2015

Fine Print Serves No "Good" Purpose

Fine print taken from a car dealer's ad in last Saturday's (5-23-15) Palm Beach Post and magnified 10X
There are lots of federal and state laws that that are supposed to “regulate” fine print in advertising. My premise is why should we only “regulate” something that is patently wrong; why not just ban it? 

The Federal Trade Commission has regulations on fine print with language that says the fine print may not change the implied intent of the main advertising message. In other words, if an advertisement states a price, the fine print cannot have hidden costs like dealer fees and dealer installed accessories which increase the real price. Florida laws state that the fine print must be of sufficient size and location so as to be “readable” All of these laws and rules are largely ignored mainly because “nobody reads the fine print anyway”.

In TV advertisements you’d have to be a speed reader to have any chance of reading the fine print and this is assuming you have exceptional eyesight. Have you noticed radio’s version of fine print? They record a 20 second disclosure of the advertisement and double or triple the speed when it’s broadcast it so that you hear it in only 5 seconds. Furthermore, notice that the volume is much lower than the rest of the message, a different much softer voice is used and oftentimes it’s played at the very beginning of the advertisement so that your mind doesn’t even associate it with the advertising message. 

I am suggesting that we pass laws, state and federal, banning fine print entirely from advertising. It would be a good idea to ban fine print in all things including contracts. The saving grace in contracts is that we can pay a lawyer to read the contract for us. 

I believe that lawyers are the cause of fine print not being made illegal. Lawyers derive a significant percentage of their income by creating fine print for contracts and later interpreting the fine print that they wrote in incomprehensible legalese. We almost always pay a lawyer to read the contracts when we buy or sell a home, but nobody pays a lawyer to read a contract when they buy a car. I’ve been a car dealer for close to half a century, I never remember a buyer completely reading the fine print on any of the paperwork or having a lawyer do so. If we did read all of the fine print, we wouldn’t understand because it’s deliberately worded to make it too difficult to comprehend for anybody except a lawyer. 

I challenge any lawyer, car dealer, or anybody else to tell me one saving grace for fine print in advertising or contracts. Tell me why it wouldn’t be better for everybody (except car dealers and other advertisers and lawyers) if all language pertinent to an advertisement or contract was stated in large, easily understood print, audio, or video. 

If you are able to read the fine print above, it says that the prices advertised in the large, obvious and colorful print above the fine print is not the price that you can buy those vehicles for. It says that in addition you must pay a $599.95 dealer fee plus the cost of dealer installed options. There is no description of what these dealer installed options consist of or what they cost. There are numerous other restrictions such as the prices are good only on May 23, the cars advertised may already be sold, you have must the advertisement with you, rebates and incentives used to calculate these prices can change without notice, and the models and equipment shown may not be the car they will sell you for the advertised price.

I don’t realistically believe that fine print will ever be made illegal, at least not in this century. We have too many lawyers in the USA and I don’t just mean lawyers that are practicing law. Our legislators are lawyers, our judges are lawyers, our federal and state attorney generals are lawyers as well as our local state attorneys. Talk about a stacked deck!

1 comment:

  1. Amen, Earl! I'm in total agreement. Thanks for being the forthright dealer you are!


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