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Deceptive advertising to lure customers not uncommon; DMV resolves concerns
Car dealerships are stocked with vehicles and ready to sell this summer. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds consumers to do their homework before buying.
It starts with knowing about car promotions and ‘sales events.’ Wisconsin law requires car advertisements to be truthful. False or misleading advertising aimed at consumers is against the state’s deceptive advertising laws. Ads should clearly and conspicuously disclose all the information that will impact a buyer’s purchasing decision. Disclaimers explaining any limitations of the offer may be part of the vehicle advertisement but should not twist the truth.
“Wisconsin dealerships must stand behind the offer they make in their ads. If they don’t, consumers have the support of state agencies, including the DMV,” says Michael Domke, DMV Dealer and Agent Section Chief. Wisconsin DMV’s Dealer and Agent Section helps consumers who have been misled by car advertisements.
Buyers should be aware that some dealerships may use different tactics to embellish their offer, such as including discounts that customers may not qualify for or changing the vehicle price when a customer visits the dealership.
“A dealership is required to advertise a price that every customer qualifies for. It is illegal to advertise a price and then tell a customer they don’t qualify for that price,” says Domke.
In most cases, DMV can help the customer get the deal that was promised in a false advertisement. To file a complaint, contact the DMV’s Dealer and Agent Section with copies of the advertisement and documents related to the vehicle purchase or lease. The DMV will use this information to resolve the complaint and enforce the laws.
More help with car buying is available in DMV’s Wise Buys vehicle buyer’s guide.
Wisconsin DMV offers these tips for car buyers:
Read the entire ad and review all the details, qualifications and exclusions
Pay attention to the fine print and watch for disclaimers, usually at the bottom of the ad, that explain any limitations of the offer
Take the ad with you in case you have questions about the advertised price, brand, features or financing
Watch for ads that offer one vehicle but then a different, often high-priced vehicle, is presented when you arrive at the dealership
Understand basic financial terms so you won’t fall prey to lease tricks or be confused by offers