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BBB tracking ads that violate regulations on advertised price

November 17, 2010

The Better Business Bureau, which monitors all vehicle advertising by Chicago area dealers, is reporting price advertisements where not every consumer who desires to purchase a vehicle is able to purchase that vehicle at the advertised price. Instead, the advertised price is available only to certain consumers who qualify for that price. 


This practice violates Rule 475.310 of the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations, which states "Purchasers shall be able to purchase all vehicles described by the advertisement at the advertised price." That means all advertised prices, without exception or any condition, must be available to every possible consumer. 


Patricia Kelly, a senior counsel of the BBB of Chicago and northern Indiana, said her office also has seen recent trends of other violations of the regulations. Kelly noted area ads that may include prices where limited rebates are deducted from the advertised price; where certain dealer incentives are deducted from the advertised price and the incentive is not available to all; where certain conditions must be met by the dealer or the consumer before a consumer qualifies for the price; where certain financing must be taken to obtain the advertised price but where only some will qualify; and similar scenarios. 


"In this day of challenging economic times in general, and for dealers especially, the BBB is aware that dealers do need to advertise aggressively to make sales," Kelly said. "However, the BBB is also aware that there must be that level playing field for all dealers to compete fairly. 


"Therefore, the BBB has begun to pay particular attention to those advertisements that advertise a price that is not available to all, in whatever form that price advertisement takes, whether Rule 310 alone is violated or in conjunction with other more specific Rules. 


"Dealers who advertise prices that are not available to all consumers will risk violation letters from the BBB under the BBB/CATA Advertising Review Program, as we continue to monitor advertisements with the goal that all dealers can compete fairly in these difficult economic circumstances."