Monday, May 11, 2020
ATTORNEY GENERAL ASHLEY MOODY: ENFORCE FLORIDA’S LAWS REGARDING ADVERTISING HONEST CAR PRICES
If your investigator indicates an interest in buying one of these advertised cars from that car dealer, they will discover that they cannot buy it at the advertised price “including all fees or charges that the customer must pay” according to Florida statute 501.976*.
You may have heard of me. I’ve been a car dealer in Florida for over 50 years. In those latter years I’ve evolved into a consumer advocate helping car buyers from being taken advantage of by car dealers. I’ve been doing a weekly radio show on this subject for 17+ years. Each week we mystery shop a South Florida car dealer. http://www.mysteryshoppingreports.com is the link to my archives of these reports. Our typical report involves responding to an online, TV, direct mail, or newspaper advertisement. We send a mystery shopper in who pretends to want to buy the advertised vehicle at the advertised price. In virtually all mystery shops (over 600), there are additional, hidden charges, including “non-governmental” fees, added to the advertised price. As an attorney and Florida’s top law enforcement officer, you should appreciate the fact that I’ve never been sued by a car dealer based on charges I’ve made regarding his violation the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act and I’ve made hundreds of such charges. As an attorney, you know that the perfect defense against libel and slander is the truth.
When I raised this issue with your AG predecessors, Bill McCollum and Pam Bondi, I was told that the AG’s office didn’t have a significant number of complaints from Florida car buyers on this issue. I believe the reason that Florida car dealers have been violating this law for so long is because the law has never been enforced, and that car buyers have become “accustomed to being deceived”. They may not know about the law. They may think that filing a complaint is not worth the effort because 99% of all car dealers are adding hidden fees to the advertised price, and car buyers consider it the norm.
Floridians spend more money on automobiles than anything except housing, and they need your protection from being over charged millions of dollars annually by hidden charges violating Florida Statute 501.976.
* Florida Statutes
REGULATION OF TRADE, COMMERCE, INVESTMENTS AND SOLICITATIONS
CHAPTER 501 CONSUMER PROTECTION
501.976 Actionable, unfair, or deceptive acts or practices. —It is an unfair or deceptive act or practice, actionable under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, for a dealer to:
(16) Advertise the price of a vehicle unless the vehicle is identified by year, make, model, and a commonly accepted trade, brand, or style name. The advertised price must include all fees or charges that the customer must pay, including freight or destination charge, dealer preparation charge, and charges for undercoating or rustproofing. State and local taxes, tags, registration fees, and title fees, unless otherwise required by local law or standard, need not be disclosed in the advertisement. When two or more dealers advertise jointly, with or without participation of the franchisor, the advertised price need not include fees and charges that are variable among the individual dealers cooperating in the advertisement, but the nature of all charges that are not included in the advertised price must be disclosed in the advertisement.
(17) Charge a customer for any predelivery service required by the manufacturer, distributor, or importer for which the dealer is reimbursed by the manufacturer, distributor, or importer.
(18) Charge a customer for any predelivery service without having printed on all documents that include a line item for predelivery service the following disclosure: “This charge represents costs and profit to the dealer for items such as inspecting, cleaning, and adjusting vehicles, and preparing documents related to the sale.”