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Vehicle advertised prices still a concern to Better Business Bureau

November 30, 2018
By Patricia Kelly, General Counsel, BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois
In accordance with the BBB/CATA Ad Review Program, the Better Business Bureau wants to bring to dealers’ attention the continuing problem of advertising prices that are not available to all buyers. 
It is imperative to understand that advertised prices cannot include any limited rebates or other amounts resulting in a price that is not available to all buyers. Most dealers are very aware that advertised prices cannot include limited rebates or other amounts resulting in a price that is not available to all buyers.
Rule 475.310 states, in the last sentence of the rule, "Purchasers shall be able to purchase all vehicles described by the advertisement at the advertised price."
Rule 475.530 states, in part (b): "It is an unfair or deceptive act for any dealer to advertise a price or amount of any installment payment, wherein rebates have been deducted, unless every consumer seeking to purchase or lease the advertised vehicle is eligible for the rebate."
Dealers continue to be frustrated by their counterparts who refuse to comply with these rules. The result is an unfair marketplace for dealers and a deception for consumers who think they can obtain advertised prices. The BBB continues to write letters to offending dealers and to refer these dealers to the Attorney General under the zero-tolerance policy.
We send a strong message to the same dealers when they question such a referral, even when the issue is a result of simple inattention to website content, because the action still results in an unfair marketplace.
The BBB has stepped up our efforts to make certain that all dealers are in compliance.
Dealer websites, usually created by third-party agencies or by the manufacturer, often show prices that are not in compliance with the rules.
Therefore, it is imperative that dealers monitor their website pricing and other pricing to ensure advertised prices are offered in compliance with the rules, regardless of who prepares the website content. Ultimately, the dealers are responsible for their advertised prices.
The BBB has received many recent referrals from dealers because the advertised price is available only for those consumers who finance or lease through a manufacturer program. Such advertised prices violate both rules cited above. There seems to be some confusion that, because the financing or lease is related to the manufacturer, a price that is based on the financing or lease can be advertised, and that is not correct.
The price is like any other price that includes limited rebates; it is not available to all consumers.
The BBB strongly advises dealers and their marketing/advertising agencies to closely monitor this issue as they are planning their advertising campaigns, to avoid advertising prices that are based on manufacturer price financing.
As you may know, the Better Business Bureau/CATA Advertising Program was created in 1996 to maintain a self-regulatory program which levels the playing field for automobile advertisers while providing the public with the reassurance that the automobile advertising is truthful. The BBB acts as sort of a buffer between dealers and the Illinois attorney general’s office, although that office has complete and independent authority to handle all matters as it sees fit in light of enforcement priorities and resources. 
We hope that dealers assist with the process by carefully monitoring their website prices.