Monday, February 04, 2019
Most Florida Car Dealers Break the Law Every Day
I have been mystery shopping Florida car dealers every week for 14 years and I estimate more than 95% violate the law with all their vehicle advertisements.
Your reaction to this incredulous statement must be something like, “How is that possible?” Ask yourself if you’ve ever bought a car in Florida at the advertised price plus only sales tax and license and registration fees. If you dig out your paperwork and check, you’ll discover that you paid from several hundred to several thousand dollars more in hidden fees and dealer installed accessories.
Some car dealers don’t even mention the fact that they have hidden fees or dealer installed accessories on every vehicle they sell. Some will disclose in the fine print the fact that they do have a dealer fee, but they don’t mention theamount. If they do mention the amount in the fine print, this doesn’t comply with the law which says, “the advertised price must include all fees or charges the customer must pay, except government fees”.
Florida regulators are primarily responsible for letting this law be flagrantly broken by virtually every car dealer in Florida. The Florida Attorney General’s office know this is going on, but refuses to do anything about it. The last time I asked the Attorney General why they took no action, I was told that they receive very few consumer complaints. This doesn’t surprise me because this law has been violated and ignored for so many years that most car buyers don’t even know that hidden fees are illegal. I also must add that car dealers and their lobbying association, Florida Auto Dealers Associations (FADA) have strongly supported the election of every Florida Attorney General.
You would think that public awareness through the media, the fourth estate of government, would rally public outcry and eventually get the attention of the Attorney General…not so. Local auto dealers are among the biggest advertisers on radio, TV, and newspapers. If a local radio station, TV channel, or newspaper says something bad about a local car dealer, the loss of that advertising revenue could seriously affect their bottom-line. When was the last time you saw, heard, or read a negative story about a local car dealer? I never have, and I’ve been a car dealer in Florida for 50+ years.
With the rapid switch from newspaper, TV and radio to digital…Facebook, Google, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, there’s hope for us to spread the word. Talk about your last car buying experience on your favorite digital platform. Some of these could go viral and even the Attorney General might decide to act.