The Florida Attorney General Concludes Investigation of Florida Dealership
Automotive Dealership Law on April 29, 2014
In March of this year, Attorney General, Pam Bondi’s office (the “Attorney General”) concluded an investigation involving over three years of advertising and sales of motor vehicles from May, 2010 through October, 2013. The Attorney General released information regarding a recent settlement related to unfair and deceptive trade practices. A Gainesville dealership’s consumers complained that they were misled about the value of trade-ins; were unfairly pressured into purchases due to sales tactics; were led to believe they were buying specific motor vehicles which were somewhat different from the vehicle actually purchased; and made to pay a much higher price than what they had agreed to pay.
The Attorney General has remained steadfast in her campaign for consumer protection. “The purchase or lease of an automobile is a major financial obligation, and my office will enforce Florida’s laws in order to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive dealership practices,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “Consumers deserve to have complete and accurate information so they can make informed decisions when purchasing a vehicle.” During the course of the investigation the dealership voluntarily terminated its General Manager, a sales person and two Sales Managers. Additionally, the dealership refunded $34,918.00 to consumers regarding the complaints.
Even though the dealership voluntarily cooperated with the investigation they suffered the consequences. The Attorney General found that former sales representatives failed to follow company guidelines and the dealership entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance which provided the following sanctions: detailed guidelines regarding advertising and sales; quality assurance monitoring; payment to the Department of $50,000.00 for investigative costs, attorney’s fees and future monitoring; and payment to 76 identified consumers totaling $95,000.00, the amount NOT precluding personal action against the dealership.
The Attorney General provided the following specific examples of illegal high pressure sales tactics:
- Holding keys – It is reasonable for a salesperson to ask for the keys to a consumer car “in order to evaluate it for trade-in purposes,” but it is an unfair sales practice for a salesperson to keep the keys while using high pressure sales tactics to get a consumer to buy.
- Cash deposits – A consumer is not obligated to provide a cash deposit to show “that he/she is serious about buying.” It is an unfair practice for a salesperson to take a cash deposit and then refuse to return it if a contract is not signed.
Learn by example and make sure your dealership is compliant with all advertising and sales guidelines to ensure that you don’t end up in the same position.