Deborah G. Roher, Attorney at Law
16 CFR Part 455 Used Motor Vehicle Trade Regulation Rule; Project No. P087604
As a lawyer who represents consumers who have been victimized by unfair vehicle sales practices, I share the objections raised by the Natl. Assn. of Consumer Advocates and CARS to this proposed rule. I am concerned that the proposed revisions to the disclosures will be counterproductive and damaging to consumers. Keep in mind that car dealers are quite accomplished at turning laws intended to protect consumers into a sword and a shield wielded against consumers. For example, I recently had a client who noticed shaking and brake noise in the test drive of her car. The dealer promised to repair these conditions if she bought the car. But once she had signed the papers and taken possession of the car, the dealer told her that BECAUSE she had purchased an "extended warranty" (service contract), it was her responsibility to have the repair work paid for by the warranty company instead. The proposed Buyer's Guide language will deter consumers from seeking legal advice because it will imply that they have no remedy even in cases of fraud or misrepresentation about the condition or provenance of the vehicle. It may also be taken as a government interpretation of law so that judges, juries, and arbitrators may take it at face value to deny consumer claims based on either warranty or other legal theories. Recent research suggests, and our practices confirm, that even the best disclosure laws are of limited value in protecting consumers in the real-life conditions under which purchasing decisions are made. But certainly an agency charged with enforcing fair trade should not order disclosures that are incomplete or misleading and which may have the effect of preempting enforcement of other consumer protection laws. Thank you for your consideration of these views.