Recently, a woman and a mother called into my weekly radio talk-show, "Earl on Cars”, and told us of a bad experience her young son had in purchasing a new car. He purchased a new Kia and brought it home for his mother to see. She asked him how much he’d paid for the Kia, but he was “kind of vague” about the numbers. She asked him to show her the “paperwork” from the purchase, vehicle buyer’s order and instalment sales contract. He reached into his pocket and handed her a “thumb drive”. In case you’re not familiar with a “thumb drive” (many people aren’t), it’s a device about 2” X .5” X .25” that stores digital data. You can only read this data if you insert the thumb drive into your PC (assuming your PC has a slot to do this; some don’t). This also assumes that you were savvy enough to accomplish the technical steps to insert the thumb drive in the right place and make the proper keystrokes on the PC to bring up the information. The son didn’t even own a PC and the mother didn’t know how to read the thumb drive on hers.
They went to the Kia dealer and learned that her son had paid $6,000 more for the new Kia than he’d been led to believe he was paying. When they both strongly objected, the sales manager told them that his son had signed the vehicle buyer’s order and installment sales contract and taken delivery of the new Kia. He told them that there’s nothing he could do because the sale was legally consummated.
When I first heard this on my radio show, I didn’t believe that this was a legal sales transaction because there hadn’t been FULL DISCLOSURE. Full disclosure is the most important part of contract law. It simply means that before a transaction can be legally consummated between a buyer and seller, both parties must have totally and transparently disclosed all the terms of the sale. My son, Stu Stewart, who is a member of the Earl on Cars team (along with Nancy Stewart and Rick Kearney) told me that other car dealers were also handing customers thumb drives. He said that this is all just part of the digital revolution and online buying.
After the radio show, I called an attorney that represents the Florida Auto Dealers Association, FADA, named Alex Kurkin. He told me, much to my chagrin and disappointment, that a thumb drive is considered full disclosure when purchasing anything, including a car. I was very surprised and disappointed.
There is the “letter of the law” and there’s the “spirit of the law”. In my opinion, giving a buyer a “thumb drive” violates the spirit of the law, because many people today can’t see and read what the seller has given them to describe all the terms of the transaction, especially the full out-the-door PRICE.
It's hard enough to understand all the terms and conditions of buying a car when full disclosure is in writing on paper. When the seller makes this information “invisible” on a thumb drive that can be seen only by someone who is digitally savvy about thumb drives and PC’s.
Humans are caught up in a whirlwind of technology unlike anything seen before in our history. With the Internet, Google, PC’s, smartphones, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the Cloud, and the Metaverse, many humans were left behind in the twentieth century. The law must not allow these older, perhaps less educated people to be victimized (accidentally or on purpose) by car dealers or any other businesses. All buyers should be given a paper copy of all details of every purchase transaction.