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‘0 down’ not an ad trigger: officials

November 22, 2010
‘0 down’ not an ad trigger: officials

Forget the rules of mathematics. Zero is nothing, and don’t confuse something with nothing.

"Zero down payment" written or spoken in automotive advertising does not constitute one of the five "triggering terms" which invoke further disclosure, according to a recent opinion by the Illinois attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau.

The two agencies monitor automotive advertising in the state to verify that the ads adhere to the Illinois Administrative Rules on Motor Vehicle Advertising and the Federal Truth-in-Lending Act.

"An advertised down payment that requires actual money down would trigger further disclosure. But ‘zero’ is not a tangible amount, so that figure does not represent a triggering term," said BBB operations director Steve Bernas.

The five triggering terms, which demand further disclosure, are:

  • amount or percentage of down payment;
  • number of payments;
  • period of repayment;
  • amount of payment (expressed as percentage or dollar amount); and
  • amount of any finance charge.

A review of the expression "zero down payment" followed extensive incentive advertising of late by manufacturers, such as the General Motors "triple zero" program—no down payments, no payments for three months and no-interest loans.

Staff commentary by the attorney general’s office states that the trigger term provision "applies only if a down payment is actually required; statements such as ‘no down payment’ or ‘no trade-in required’ do not trigger additional disclosures" under the Truthin-Lending Act.