WASHINGTON – Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its final rule targeting deceptive conduct in the sale and financing of motor vehicles, titled the “Combatting Auto Retail Scams” (CARS) Rule.
After a decade of attempts to fix a broken auto marketplace, the FTC announced in July 2022 that it was pursuing an auto dealer rule aimed at ending bait and switch pricing tactics and junk fees in the form of worthless add-on products and services. After receiving over 25,000 comments from the public and widespread support for addressing auto dealer misconduct, the FTC has published its final rule, summarizing the comments and laying out its plan for the CARS rule.
“We are thrilled that the Federal Trade Commission has issued its CARS rule today bringing some badly needed consumer protections to Americans looking to buy or lease a vehicle,” said Mitria Spotser, vice president and director of federal policy at the Center for Responsible Lending. “This rule will help curb dishonest sales and financing practices in the industry. The steep rise in automobile prices over the past few decades means we need to be doubly vigilant of junk charges and financing scams, especially given current interest rates.”
“The time is long overdue for the FTC to level the playing field for car buyers and honest dealers,” said Erin Witte, Director of Consumer Protection at Consumer Federation of America. “The CARS Rule will bring some improvements to the auto market, and we look forward to working with the FTC to ensure that all consumers, especially those in vulnerable populations, are prioritized throughout the process.”
The CARS Rule prohibits misrepresentations about key information, like price and cost, and requires dealers to provide the offering price, tell consumers add-ons are optional, and give information about the total payment when discussing monthly payments. The rule also prohibits dealers from charging for any add-on that has no benefit to the consumer.
“We applaud the FTC’s efforts to help millions of Americans through the use of its rulemaking authority to bring a level of transparency to auto sales,” said John Van Alst, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center and Director of its Working Cars for Working Families Project. “We look forward to continuing to work with state and federal policymakers to address discriminatory practices and bring transparency to the car sales and finance markets.”
The Rule also includes clear protections for members of the military and their families who are targeted with deceptive information about whether dealers are affiliated with the military and face other issues specific to servicemembers.
“The FTC has taken the courageous step of addressing the top consumer complaint in the country: auto sales,” said Rosemary Shahan, President of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety. “This rule should benefit both consumers and honest car dealers, who wrote in support of the proposed rule and complained about being at a competitive disadvantage because of unscrupulous car dealers who lure car buyers with false promises of low prices, then jack them up using sneaky tactics.”
"Consumers are beyond frustrated with the deceptive practices some unscrupulous dealers use to jack up the price of cars," said Chuck Bell, advocacy programs director for Consumer Reports. "The FTC's new rule will protect consumers from shady bait and switch sales tactics and help ensure that car dealers provide fair and accurate prices for vehicle purchases."
The CARS Rule will take effect on July 30, 2024. The FTC has created new guidance for consumers to help them understand their rights when they buy a vehicle as well as guidance for auto dealers with advice to help them prepare for the rule to go into effect.
“We know all too well how car buyers across the country are ripped off by unscrupulous auto dealer sales and financing tactics,” said Christine Hines, legislative director at National Association of Consumer Advocates. “We appreciate that the FTC has issued a rule to provide some protections for consumers in this market.”
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