On any given Sunday in Illinois, consumers can do their weekly shopping at various “brick and mortar” stores or turn to online vendors virtually 24-7. They can even purchase alcohol on Sunday after 11:00 a.m. But for decades they have been barred by law from purchasing a new or used automobile from a licensed car dealer.
This type of restriction on Sunday sales dates from another era, when “blue laws” were common throughout the U.S. Today, in almost all other industries, businesses independently decide how and when to promote and sell their products and services based on competition and their interaction with consumers. And in many other states, auto dealers compete to decide the most convenient hours of operation, unhampered by mandatory Sunday closing laws.
Competition is at the heart of America’s economy, and vigorous competition among sellers in an open marketplace can provide consumers the benefits of lower prices, higher quality products and services, and greater innovation. Typically, that competition includes hours of operation that will be responsive to consumer needs and profitable for sellers. Currently, car buyers in Illinois in search of a new car – one of the largest purchases they typically can make – must do so on weekdays and Saturdays. In economic terms, this raises their “search costs,” because it deprives them of even the option of using Sundays to comparison shop. And less time to shop can translate into less convenience and higher prices. Because new car dealers also sell a range of related services, such as repair services and replacement parts, mandatory Sunday closing laws also reduce competition for these related products and services.
Illinois S.B. 2629, currently pending in the Illinois legislature, would eliminate current laws that prevent dealers from opening and offering consumers the option of buying cars on Sundays. At the request of the bill’s sponsor, FTC staff have submitted a letter to the Illinois legislature urging Illinois to abandon these out-dated restrictions on Sunday auto sales, which are likely harming Illinois consumers without any public benefit. FTC staff have extensive experience in analyzing the auto industry, and have identified no benefits from the current law for consumers.
Without restrictions on Sunday sales, auto dealers, like other merchants, will compete to respond to consumer preferences for more convenient hours of operation. For consumers, this will likely mean more weekend time to comparison shop in search of the car that will best fit their needs at the best price. Now that’s a good deal.