Daniel Bell, Plaintiff, vs MIAMIMOTORSPORTS, LLC and ZGFINANCIALSERVICES,LLC Defendants
As all of my regular readers know, I’ve been battling the infamous “dealer fee” in Florida for many years. For my new readers, to bring you up to speed, the dealer fee is a generic term for hidden profit secretly added to the price of a car. Florida is, by far, the worst of all 50 states in taking advantage of car buyers with the dealer fee. There is no cap on the dealer fee as there is in all other states. It’s not uncommon to find dealers charging dealer fees over $2,000. There’s no specific name for the dealer fee, allowing dealers to disguise it as an official government tax or fee. “Electronic Filing Fee” and “Tag Agency Fee” are just two examples.
Dana Manner is a highly qualified and experienced consumer advocate attorney in Miami. He has appeared on my weekly radio show [Earl Stewart on Cars Tuesdays 4-6 PM; www.StreamEarlOnCars.com] three times. Last February he won a judgement against Miami Motor Sports, LLC in Miami for a violation of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act FDUTPA. This dealer added his dealer fee to the advertised price of a car he sold to Daniel Bell. The case was published in the Florida Law Weekly Supplement and it is the first of its kind reported in Florida. A lawyer reading this will understand why publishing this court decision is so important and historic. “Case law” is looked to by judges in deciding a lawsuit and this is the first case law finding for the car buyer against a car dealer for adding the dealer fee to the advertised price. You can read this case law by clicking on www.DealerFeeillegal.com.
The legal decision, Daniel Bell, Plaintiff, vs MIAMIMOTORSPORTS, LLC and ZGFINANCIALSERVICES,LLC Defendants reads as follows:
Consumer law---Florida Deceptive and Unfair ‘Trade Practices Act---Vehicle sale---Dealer committed per se violation of FDUTPA by adding upcharge to advertised cash price of vehicle sold to plaintiff—Dealer and financial service company that is holder of dealer’s written contract are liable to plaintiff for actual damages and attorney’s fees---Where notice sent by financial service company prior to disposition of collateral failed to satisfy Uniform Commercial Code Article 9, plaintiff is entitled to statutory damages equal to finance charge plus 10% of principal amount.
What this court decision means to you, a Florida resident, is that it makes it much easier for you to demand an out-the-door price which includes all dealer fees. If you respond to any advertisement online, TV, radio, or print, the dealer fee or fees should all be included in that price. Dealers “disclose” their dealer fee in the fine print in different ways and some don’t disclose them at all. Some disclose it by saying “price excludes all fees”. This lumps together government fees (tag-tax-title) with the dealer fees, clearly illegal. Other dealers disclosure says “plus dealer fee”, but it doesn’t tell you the amount of the dealer fee, much less include it…thus it’s not legal. Some dealers disclose the amount of their dealer fee in the fine print, but that does not abide by the law which says it must be included in the price. This is not even to mention that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that anything that increases the advertised price must be “clearly and conspicuously displayed adjacent to that price”.
Perhaps the most common dealer fee deception is advertising just one car at the price which includes the dealer fees. For example, a Ford dealer might have 50 Ford F150 trucks of the exact same year, model, accessories and identical MSRP’s. He advertises this F150, including this disclosure in the fine print…”#A62932”. No one except the dealer knows what that number means; it’s the “stock number” of one of those identical Ford F150 trucks. He “might” sell you that exact truck at the advertised price, but if you buy any one of the other 49 identical trucks, you will have to pay extra for his dealer fees. Typically, when you ask the salesman to see the advertised vehicle, “it’s just been sold” or he “can’t find it”. But, the salesman says, “Not to worry…we have 49 more F150’s that are identical.” Yes, they are identical, but now the dealer can legally add his dealer fee to the advertised price.
Another common dealer fee deception is the multiple dealer fee charges using different names. Remember that the term “dealer fee” is generic. Many dealers don’t call their extra profit charge a dealer fee and, if they do, they often charge other dealer fees by a different name. Electronic filing fee, e-filing fee, doc fee, Dealer Services fee, documentary fee, processing fee, tag agency fee, administrative fee, notary fee, notary and closing fee, dealer prep fee, freight fee, and document processing fee are just a few. Some dealers will include only one of their dealer fees in the advertised price, the one that they named “dealer fee”. They can claim that they abided by the law because they did include their “dealer fee” in the advertised price. But the truth is that their “electronic filing fee” or “tag agency fee” is added to the price and they are also dealer fees under Florida law.
Remember that the powerful thing about Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is that it awards attorney’s fee to you if you win the case. Too many consumers hesitate to sue over a relatively small sum like a $999.95 dealer fee on a $40,000 vehicle. They’re afraid that their legal fees will cost them more than the amount they can recover. But under the FDUTPA, you can recover all of your attorney’s fees plus the $999.95 dealer fee. The dealer you’re suing knows this, and he assesses his downside as many thousands of dollars, not just $999.95…plus his own attorney’s fees. Most smart dealers will refund his dealer fee money, his ill-gotten gains, immediately upon receiving the initial demand letter from your attorney. Most attorneys will conference with you to assess your chances of winning at no charge. With a winning case, you pay him nothing and get back the illegally charged dealer fees. It’s a win-win for you and a lose-lose for the car dealer.