Law Office of Michael R. Quirk
16 CFR Part 455 Used Motor Vehicle Trade Regulation Rule; Project No. P087604
I would like to comment on the Buyer's Guide in general. The Guide supposedly warns consumers that if they are purchasing a car "As-Is", they will be responsible for future repairs, since the Dealer is disclaiming any warranty. While this may in the abstract seem fair, in practice it simply allows car dealers to repeatedly practice fraud on the consumer, with the FTC's blessing. Reading the form clearly demonstrates that the determination of the mechanical condition of the vehicle at that moment is 100% up to the consumer to determine, and hints at the prospect that the consumer might be best advised to have their own mechanic check the car over before deciding to purchase it. Anyone working in the government, e.g., the FTC, who believes this concept is based upon one iota of reality should be fired on the spot. I am an attorney in California who mainly sues car dealers on behalf of defrauded consumers. It's what I do. I have spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of consumers, who have purchased used vehicles from car dealers. Here's how it works 99.9% of the time. The dealer purchases a vehicle for re-sale. The dealer is a professional used car buyer, and is skilled at evaluating the condition of a vehicle. In California, the dealer is required by the California Vehicle Code to perform a "safety" check, to make sure the safety features required by California law, e.g., operational brakes, lights, etc., are legal. Dealers equipped with a service department will at a minimum, have their mechanic put the car on a lift to inspect it. Moreover, the dealer is required to obtain a "smog" certificate which insures the engine does not pollute the atmosphere. Usually, the certificate is obtained by an independent facility licensed to only perform smog checks. During this process, original examination, safety check, and smog check, the dealer gains valuable information concerning the mechanical condition of the vehicle. Often, if the opinion is not favorable, a conscious decision is made to sell the vehicle to an unsuspecting member of the public without a warranty of any kind, i.e., "As-Is." The average non-professional used car shopper assumes, 100% of the time, that if the vehicle is on the dealer's lot, it is mechanically sound, because a professional car dealer would not be selling cars that are not mechanically sound. Enter the "Buyer's Guide," which suggests that perhaps the buyer should have the car inspected by their own mechanic first, and they should ask the dealer about this possibility. 100% of the time, the dealer says two things: 1) no, you can't do that, we can't have you taking the car off the lot (except for a very short test drive) unless you buy it (and often, but you can have your mechanic look it over after you buy it, and if he finds anything wrong, we will ... insert lie here); AND 2) but don't worry, we have had, or our service department has, [safety] checked the vehicle over with a fine tooth comb, and its in great condition. When the service engine light that the car dealer had turned off, or the transmission fails, or the need for any other repair that the dealership no doubt knew about, occurs a week or two later, the dealer then waives the form you developed for their benefit in the customers face, and tell them to get the heck off their lot. Some may try Small Claims court, where they are met by a judge who thinks some sort of federal law promulgated by you folks, prevent him or her from granting any relief. In reality, the buyer is stuck taking the word of the car dealer regarding the condition of the vehicle, with no opportunity to verify its condition prior to purchasing it, and your form allows them to commit fraud with impunity. Contrary to your form's language, even innocent misrepresentations regarding the condition of the car should be borne by the dealer, and quite often, form the basis for legal relief, but only from a few experienced consumer attorney. Please don't make my job harder.