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BBB sees infractions of Advertising Limitations, Rule 475.320

November 21, 2014
By Patricia Kelly, Legal Counsel, Better Business Bureau Chicago
The BBB has recently become aware of consumer confusion in connection with the availability of certain vehicles at advertised prices.
We have received complaints from consumers who responded to an area dealer’s advertised price, assuming the price is generally available, and who are told in the store by a salesperson that only one unit was available at that price and it was sold.
We want to clarify the application of Rule 475.320 to advertised prices. The rule states that any limitations on the availability of the advertised price must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed. This includes the availability of a single vehicle or number of vehicles in stock and any other restrictions on the price.
Advertisements often claim certain vehicles, either with or without stock numbers, are offered at specific prices, such as "Honda Odysseys EX-l $22,900, 20 available" or "New 2015 Kia Soul $12,490."
Neither claim is entirely clear as to how many vehicles are actually available at the advertised price.
When dealers offer certain vehicles at specific prices, there is a known quantity of vehicles actually available in inventory. The availability of the number of vehicles at the advertised price must be disclosed per Rule 475.320.  
Dealers often advertise the lowest price for a model line and include a stock number for a vehicle. However, this does not tell the reader that only one is available or at least a very limited number are available for that model line.  
The advertised price should include a disclosure near the price that says "X available at this price" or "1 available at this price" so that readers understand the low price is limited to just a few vehicles or even one.  
In addition, a disclosure such as "36 available at various prices" informs consumers that the advertised    model line, while offered at a low price and disclosed as to the number of vehicles available at that price, is also available at higher prices to the extent of 36 total in stock.
Since the BBB is seeing this confusion played out in complaints, it is important for dealers to think about Rule 475.320 and inform their advertising agencies to be aware of it.
As the BBB does pre-publication advertising review, we point out to agencies the Rule and confirm that necessary disclosures are made, to correct the problem as we see it.
However, we want to educate dealers, as well, so that dealers do not experience customer frustration based upon impressions created in advertisements, when the impressions can be so easily corrected.
The BBB continues to be very active in dealer advertising, to assist those desiring review before an advertisement is published and in leveling the marketplace playing field for all dealers.
To discuss a pre-publication review, contact my colleague, Michael Boyadjian, our advertising review specialist, at (312) 245-2515 or