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Published on April 9th, 2013

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Changes to Used-Car “Buyers Guide” Could Leaves Drivers Stuck

Consumers on the hunt for a used car may soon have to worry about whether the warranty information the dealer tells them is true. The FTC has proposed changes to the Used Car Rule that have some consumer groups unhappy. The Used Car Rule, put into effect in 1985 and last changed in 1995, requires car dealers to put a “Buyers Guide” window sticker on used cars, detailing whether the dealer offers a warranty and, if so, the terms of the warranty. But a proposed revision to this “Buyers Guide” sticker has consumer-protection groups and attorneys general in 22 states worried that consumers will be misled about their rights.

According to the FTC, the revisions are intended to “empower consumers without adding burdens to businesses.” But as reported by the New York Times, critics say the proposed wording would instead make it easier for unscrupulous dealers to mislead used-car buyers about their legal rights and vehicle histories:

The proposed wording reads: “The dealer won’t pay for any repairs. The dealer is not responsible for any repairs, regardless of what anybody tells you.” . . .
The attorneys general are concerned that a dishonest or ill-informed dealer could more easily mislead consumers by saying “what anybody tells you” is an indisputable statement of the law by the federal government.

In other words, consumer groups are worried that under the new rules, a car dealer could put a sticker on a used car that says repairs are the responsibility of the buyer, while telling the buyer in person that a non-existent warranty will pay for the repairs. If the car breaks down, the dealer could claim that the “regardless of what anybody tells you” wording in the Used Car Rule protects the dealership from its own bogus, spoken promises.

Consumer groups are also unhappy that the proposed Buyers Guide sticker would not list whether a used car has been in an accident or flood, and instead would direct consumers how to make such vehicle history checks on their own.

The changes are proposed only, and the FTC is considering the protests from consumer groups before implementing changes. Read more about the proposed FTC changes here. Concerned consumers should also familiarize themselves with their local laws, which can offer more (or sometimes less) protection for used-car buyers.

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Established in 1914 under President Woodrow Wilson, the FTC is the United States government’s primary regulatory authority in the area of consumer protection and anti-competitive business practices in the marketplace. Its Bureau of Consumer Protection assumes the lead in the Commission’s efforts to eliminate deceptive advertising and fraudulent business practices at work in the economy.

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