is one of the most important issues that dealerships face today. Automobile
and recreational vehicle
dealers are more
and more frequently the targets of lawsuits, enforcement actions,
contract repurchases and, of course,
the associated negative publicity. Attorneys general in many states
identify accusations against dealerships as being their #1
concern, and recognize the political capital in going after dealers.
An innocent dealer can easily become the target of a government
investigation simply because a customer is trying to wiggle out of a
transaction. Inattention to legal compliance may very well be a
ticking time bomb because auto dealerships
are considered to be very easy Targets.
HOW COMPLIANT IS YOUR DEALERSHIP?
RECENT CASES AUTO DEALER LEGAL COMPLIANCE ARTICLES
Besides federal and state regulatory agencies, consumer law firms
that specialize in
auto dealer-related legal issues continue to flourish nationwide.
Automobile dealerships are a prime target for these type of
firms due to very complicated consumer-based laws. Most legal action against dealers these days is the
result of mistakes or omissions in the sales and
finance process, the
way vehicles are advertised, or the statements made by dealership staff.
Of course, that's not even taking into account harassment and
discrimination claims. Claims and lawsuits alleging harassment or
discrimination are increasing at an alarming rate. Three out of five
companies face a suit each year, and the costs are staggering.
Federal and state watchdogs have clearly been
ratcheting up their
regulatory actions. Even inadvertent violations of the maze of rules
can be shockingly costly. Penalties can come in the form of fines (the
FTC can seek fines of $16,000 a day for every violation), lawsuits, and
in some instances, even imprisonment.
Even more disturbing is the
fact that many lawsuits by plaintiff's attorneys frequently have the ability to be
rolled into a class action, and may prove very costly to the defending
dealer. Attorneys are generating massive settlements and legal fees
from class action lawsuits for seemingly minor issues. Recent class
actions lawsuits against dealerships include false advertising claims, alleged yo-yo financing, backdating of re-written
contracts, overcharging fees, undisclosed deferred downpayments and
failure to provide prior vehicle history disclosures. Can you imagine
being sued in a class action lawsuit because someone on your staff
charged an $8.75 tire fee? It's happening right now!
can also expect increased scrutiny from lending institutions who have
suffered massive losses due to questionable deals. Issues such as
falsified credit information and power-booking are on every banker's
Who Taught Your Staff The Rules?
Unfortunately, in many cases the old-timers have taught the new hires
the “old school” way of doing business and the problem goes on and on. A number of long-standing dealership practices are not necessarily legal or ethical any longer. Many dealership employees have never been
properly trained in compliance matters, so they simply rely on doing business
the way it’s always been done. Some of the practices which have evolved in the automotive
industry are now considered to be unethical or illegal.
As a result, the government has increased it's regulation of
retail transactions in order to help protect consumers and
law firms have found a tremendous
opportunity to rake in massive judgments against dealerships. To them, it’s like shooting fish in a
barrel. Education is the first and most vital step
towards employee accountability. After all, if employees don’t know or
understand the rules, how can they be expected to follow them? Ignorance is not
an excuse for breaking the law and it certainly won’t mitigate potential
damages. Dealers are entirely responsible for making certain that these laws and regulations are followed.
automotive industry is changing
dramatically and will become even more heavily regulated in the future.
who continue to operate without being compliant will invariably
struggle. Lack of legal compliance is not an option for dealers who
want to stay in business and prosper. Today’s
dealers need to be proactive and creative enough to change their
processes so they can be more profitable as well as compliant. It
just makes good
Does your staff have sufficient knowledge to avoid potential lawsuits?
To protect themselves, dealerships should follow defined
processes and employ a consistent
training program. The most successful dealers use compliance as a
way to ensure consistency and transparency in their sales process, thus
increasing both sales and profitability. Well-trained people not only
portray a more desirable image,
but they will produce better results for their organization. In addition to
shielding your company from liability, training can also reduce exposure to punitive damages. The Supreme Court held in 1999 that companies can be
protected against an award of punitive damages if they make good faith efforts
to comply with laws.
If a dealership can prove that it took appropriate steps to
educate, audit and supervise employees, it will have a much stronger
defense against any claims.
put the business and the reputation that you have worked years to build
at risk. Take compliance seriously, put a comprehensive compliance plan
place, and act quickly to address failures and deficiencies. An
investment in compliance programs and training will protect your
assets, your employees, your customers and your good name.
you truly comfortable with the level of compliance in your dealership?
feel that your staff is properly trained and accountable for their
business practices? Are you comfortable with the last set of eyes you
have reviewing your paperwork? What would happen to you and your
you were to have your day in court? With
every customer interaction,
with every car sold or serviced, your dealership and it
growth are at risk without absolute adherence to
state and federal
Click here to evaluate your exposure.
Unfortunately, the costs and logistics involved in keeping staff members trained in compliance, with its maze of rules and regulations
have caused many dealerships to settle
for trying to "fly in under the radar" and "hope for the best". On the other
hand, many organizations spend thousands of dollars
for compliance audits only to find that the same violations continue to
occur shortly after the auditors move on.
Finally, there is a solution - At Dealer Compliance Consultants, it is our mission to help auto dealers attain
compliance with federal and state laws and regulations while avoiding penalties, fines, civil actions
and media exposure. More importantly, our solutions are designed to maintain compliance in your dealership,
while keeping staff members accountable for their own behavior. We
offer comprehensive compliance solutions, developed by car people for
that are both easy to administer and incredibly affordable. The Dealer Compliance Consultants' leadership team has decades of experience
working in dealership operations.
Dealership legal compliance has never been easier or more
economical. here are some features of our on-Line training programs: