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Vehicle advertising during a pandemic

April 17, 2020
By Patricia Kelly, Senior Counsel, Better Business Bureau of Chicago

The BBB continues to work on behalf of dealers through the BBB/CATA advertising review program to maintain a level playing field in these trying times for all dealers. The introduction of the coronavirus into our society has created enormous challenges for dealers and businesses of all kinds. We hope that our efforts can assist in providing fairness for dealers in the current environment.
  
The BBB has recently seen a few issues that are troublesome. We want to point these out to dealers so they can avoid practices that may confuse or deceive consumers and negatively impact the marketplace.
  
We hope that dealers will avoid these advertising practices as they proceed in the coming weeks.
  
Dealers should avoid any claims that suggest or imply the dealer has any special affiliation with any government program or manufacturer program to assist consumers. Dealers must avoid any implication that such programs are, in fact, dealer programs. If any program is advertised, the correct source of the program should also be advertised. 
  
We recently have seen dealers advertising that "we" will make consumers’ monthly lease or loan payments for a period of time when the programs are manufacturer programs or lender programs. In fact, dealers are prohibited from making consumers monthly payments under Rules 475.530, Rebates, and 475.590, Gifts and Free Offers, of the Illinois Administrative Rules on Motor Vehicle Advertising.
 
Dealers also should avoid any claims involving making consumers’ monthly payments under any programs that involve dealer money for the same reasons.
  
Related to this is the avoidance of any implication that a dealer has a status related to any government or manufacturer program that is different than any other dealer. 
  
Other practices to avoid are the creation of any dealer program offering to assist victims of COVID 19, or their families, based on the sale, lease or financing of any vehicle as well as the trade-in.  Nor should any dealer program offer to assist first responders, police, fire or medical professionals plus any other kind of hospital staff. 
 
Finally, dealers should not tie any charitable contribution to the sale, lease or financing of any vehicle to a consumer.
  
The BBB hopes the next weeks and months play out for dealers in a way that is as beneficial as possible.  We understand how difficult the current environment is and would like to assist as much as possible.
 
 

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