Monday, August 03, 2020

COVID-19 FEE!

CAR DEALERS NEWEST HIDDEN FEE?
I knew it was bound to happen. It was only a question of when. In Monday’s USA Today, there’s an article on businesses using the pandemic as an excuse to secretly raise prices. One example is an airline that charged a passenger $1,150 when their customer was forced (Europe banned American travelers) to cancel because of the pandemic. A restaurant/Sports Bar in Miami, New Wave Billiards, is adding 3% to customers’’ checks, called a COVID-19 Fee. A beauty salon in Michigan is adding a 4% “safety fee”. The article didn’t mention any car dealers, but I can guarantee you that this is probably happening now and many more dealers (especially in Florida) will jump onto the bandwagon.

Some argue that if businesses incur additional costs, they’re justified in passing these costs along to their customers. Afterall, a business must make a profit, and can only do so by charging the customer more than its total expenses. The “fly in this ointment” is that these fees are HIDDEN and not included in the advertised or quoted prices.

Say your shopping for a new 2020 Honda Accord Sedan LX, and you see an advertised price of $22,994 from dealer A, $23,750 from Dealer B, and $24,249 from dealer C. To the unsuspecting car buyer this is a “no-brainer”; He’s going to buy his new Honda from Dealer A. What you don’t know from the advertisement is that Dealer A has 3,000 in hidden fees, Dealer B has 1,500 and Dealer C has only $500. Dealer C, with the highest advertised price, has the lowest out-the-door price, $24,749.

This should make you understand the biggest problem car buyers in Florida (and many other states) have…THE DEALER WITH THE HIGEST HIDDEN FEES CAN ADVERTISE THE LOWEST PRICE. In Florida there’s no cap/limit on the number or the amount dealer fees. There’s also no regulation on what car dealers canname their hidden fees. They typically choose names to trick those few who discover the fees that look like government fees…tag agency fee, Doc fee, e-filing fee. One of latest hidden fee name popular among dealers is “Taxable Fees”. A real government fee is not taxable; sales tax must be paid on phony hidden fees. Now, beware of the COVID-19 fee.

There are laws on the books in Florida that require that the added fees be included in the advertised price (Florida Statute 501.976 (18), but that law is ignored by almost every car dealer because there’s no enforcement of the law by our Attorney General, Ashley Moody or any other regulator. There are also disclosure laws which require dealers to add this language to the vehicle buyer’s order to the effect that the fees represent “costs and profit to the dealer”, but this language is hidden in the fine print and the reams of paperwork signed by car buyers in the finance office. Furthermore, dealers typically disclose only some of their hidden fees.

If there were a concerted effort to crack know on the dealers it could have a powerful effect. There are many dealers who would rather not have to resort to deceptive advertising but feel they must out of “self-defense”. If a Toyota dealer’s nearest competitor charges $1,200 in hidden fees and he doesn’t, that dealer can advertise prices substantially lower. If Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody were to enforce Florida Statute 501.976 and require dealers to include all taxable fees in the advertised and quoted prices, you the consumer would have an easy time of buying your next car at the best price.

If you agree with me, please take a few minutes to call Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody at 850 414-3300 and ask her to please enforce Florida Statute 501.976 (18) that requires car dealers to include their fees in the advertised prices. Virtually no car dealer in Florida complies with this law. You can tell Ashley Moody that all she must do to verify my allegations is click on any online car dealer advertisement and check. She’ll find that some car dealers will mention the amount of some of their dealer fees in the fine print, some will simply say plus dealer fees (or some other name) and no mention of the amount, and some will not mention the fees at all. NONE of them will actually include the amount of all their dealer fees in the advertised price.

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