Section 16 of 20

California Automotive Advertising Laws

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Advertising and the Law

Under Federal and California law, it is unlawful to advertise any statements which are untrue or misleading, or as part of a plan or scheme with the intent not to sell any vehicle or service so advertised at the stated price.

The definition of  “advertising” or “advertisement” includes all media methods used to promote a vehicle to Consumers including:

  • Newspapers, magazines, leaflets, catalogs, and fliers
  • Radio, television and public address systems
  • Direct mail
  • Any sign (exterior or interior), display, literature or price tag
  • Telephone solicitations
  • Online messages such as those on the Internet

When Advertising Always:

  • Identify yourself as a dealerincluding your dealership name & DMV license #
  • Identify the vehicle advertised by its license number -or- VIN (last 6 digits or more) and the model year, make, model
  • Fully specify and disclose all Terms of Sale in the advertisement, including all costs (except taxes, registration fees, tire fees, smog fees, and DOC fees)
  • Withdraw ad(s) within 48 hours when the vehicle has been sold or is no longer for sale
  • Honor an advertised price, even if the buyer is not aware of the advertisement
  • Include an “Offer Expires” date in every ad

When Advertising, Never:

  • Describe a Used Vehicle as New
  • Offer a guaranteed trade-in allowance without inspecting the vehicle
  • Offer “Free” merchandise, gifts, or services that require the purchase of a vehicle
  • Make an underselling claim such as “We have the lowest prices” unless you have conducted a recent survey documenting and proving these claims
  • Represent the dealer Documentation Fee as a governmental fee
  • Use vehicle photos that show options not included in the advertised price
  • Use “rebate” or similar words, such as “cash back,” unless expressed with a specific dollar amount and is offered by the manufacturer (or their distributor) and sent directly to the Buyer
  • Use a coupon or simulated check in an advertisement
  • Use terms such as “Dealer’s Invoice” that refer to a Dealer’s cost for a vehicle
  • Use terms such as “no Down Payment” unless you will sell the vehicle to any purchaser without prior payment of any kind
  • State that a vehicle is equipped with all the “factory-installed” optional equipment when it is not

Certified Used Vehicles (Car Buyer’s Bill of Rights)

Never advertise or sell a used car as “Certified” unless your Dealership has performed a complete inspection of the vehicle and provided consumers with a copy of the Inspection Report.

Never advertise or sell a Used Vehicle as “Certified” when:

  • The odometer does not indicate the actual mileage of the vehicle.
  • The vehicle was reacquired by the manufacturer or dealer under “Lemon Law”
  • The vehicle was damaged by a collision, fire, or flood unless repaired to its safe operating condition before the sale
  • The title was branded as a lemon law buyback, manufacturer repurchase, salvage, junk, non-repairable, or similar designation
  • The vehicle has frame damage or was sold “as is.”