Not much surprises us anymore when it comes to things car dealerships will do to defraud consumers out of money.  We have been doing this for too long.  However, it has been surprising lately to see that dealerships are starting to charge more for a used car during the sales process than they are advertising online.  Here is the common scenario:

Someone goes online to one of those listing sites (cars.com, cargurus.com, edmunds.com, etc.).  They find a car they want to buy at a local dealership.  They note the price shown online before they go to the dealership.  They go test drive the car and decide to buy it.  The finance person at the dealership completes the finance paperwork without the consumer being able to see the screen.  The finance person turns the screen around and asks for an electronic signature.  The consumer signs, takes the car, and heads home.  Then, days later, the consumer realizes they just agreed to pay $2000 or more for the vehicle.

This is becoming common practice with computers and electronic deals becoming more acceptable.  We used to deal with situations where our clients would complain that the dealerships charged them for extended warranties and GAP insurance that they didn’t want.  However, while that is still happening, now the dealerships are adjusting the Cash Price.  And, that is a direct violation of the Auto Industry Trade Practices Act.

Undoubtedly, the dealership will claim that it is not liable for misinformation on a listing site, like Cars.com, that the dealership has no control over.  However, if you act fast enough, you can likely find the listing on multiple cites listing different prices.  Just the other day, we found a dealership that listed a car for $10k on a listing site when our client found it, but then went back after our client started complaining and changed the listing prices to $12k to match the price he charged her.  What still has us confused is that the dealership still didn’t list the correct sales price even after changing the price on the listing site.

The easiest way to prevent this fraudulent behavior is to print and take the online advertisement with you to the dealership.  Then, when the dealership tries to increase the price, you can show it the advertisement and leave that dealership before signing anything.  Additionally, always ask to read EVERYTHING before signing anything.  Finally, if you did fall victim to this scheme, go online and save any many listing site’s advertisements as you are able.  It is easy for a dealership to claim one site was listing the wrong price.  It is much harder when you can show 3-4 sites listing the same price.

As always, if you have any questions, give us a call at 412-209-0657.