Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series. To read the first part, log onto www.hometownnewsol.com and click on business and finance, then business columns.
Florida House Rep. Carl Domino, R-District 83, asked me to propose a bill for him to consider sponsoring which addresses my objections to the dealer fee.
There were discussions with Ted Smith, president of the FADA, Carl and me about meeting to discuss this bill. However, due to the current automotive crisis, Ted Smith and his executive committee have had their hands full. I fully understand and respect this.
Having never drafted a bill for the legislature before, I'll drafted a layman's version, which I'm sure Rep. Domino and his staff can put into the language that lawyers and politicians seem to prefer.
Jeff Atwater, e current president of the senate, has been very supportive of my cause and I'll ask him to sponsor a senate version of the bill.
I have lobbied for two years to make the dealer fee illegal. In last March's legislature, despite my flying to Tallahassee, it never got out of the Senate Commerce Committee. I do not want anybody to think that my drafting a bill falls short of making the dealer fee illegal is a sign of weakness or a sign of my "selling out" to the FADA. My ultimate goal remains to make the dealer fee illegal, period. But I am convinced that there is a much greater chance of getting a compromise bill passed into law. This compromise will be better than having nothing at all.
After you've read my proposed bill below, please give me your opinion and suggestions by calling my no dealer fee hotline at (800) 809-9879. On this hotline, you will be able to record your thoughts on the dealer fee. Your voicemail will be forwarded to my e-mail via an audio file, which I can then forward to Rep. Domino and Sen. Atwater.
. The dealer fee printed on the buyer's order should be directly below the cash selling price and the column just below that should read, "cash selling price including dealer fee."
The dealer fees currently disclosed on buyers' orders are enmeshed in the middle of legitimate taxes and fees. Because the dealer fee is profit, and part of the selling price of the car and sales tax must be paid on it, it should be displayed as part of the price of the car, not as part of the taxes and legitimate fees.
. A car buyer should have the right to negotiate the dealer fee, just as she can the rest of the price of the car. Next to the dealer fee on the car windows and the vehicle buyer's order, must appear the word "negotiable." Furthermore, salespeople cannot tell car buyers that they "cannot remove the dealer fee from the buyer's order" which is universally the practice presently.
. Dealers who violate the dealer fee law should be fined and there should be internal enforcement by FADA.
Currently, there is virtually no enforcement of the dealer fee law. What good is there of passing a new law if the old, inadequate law is not even enforced? The fines should be severe and progressive.
I've had talks with Ted Smith and FADA about establishing an internal control system that would police dealers in different parts of the state. A dealer violator would be given one "free pass" before the violation was sent to the AG's office. I not only support this, but I believe this would greatly enhance the enforcement of the new law.
. A customer who can prove that the dealer fee was not disclosed as required by law, is entitled to 100 percent reimbursement of the dealer fee plus her legal fees and costs.
. Do not allow manufacturer/distributor group ads to exclude the dealer fee from their advertised prices.
This loophole exists in the current law. The argument is that it would be too "confusing" if a separate price was advertised for each dealer in the ad. If the manufacturer/distributor wished to run just price, then he must be required to identify the amount of each dealer's dealer fee next to that dealer's name.
Earl Stewart is the owner and general manager of Earl Stewart Toyota in North Palm Beach. The dealership is located at 1215 N. Federal Highway in Lake Park. Contact him at www.earlstewarttoyota.com, call (561) 358-1474, fax (561) 658-0746 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.