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We mentioned weeks ago that FTC enforcement of advertising regulations related to auto sales and loans would step up. Today was more evidence of that crackdown. The FTC came down on two California lenders promising consumers they could stop repossession and reduce payments. (FTC Press Release)
By all accounts, these companies were clearly involved in deceitful advertising practices, and they deserve what they have coming to them. In our follow-up discussion with the FTC, they acknowledged that the federal government has more "cops on the street" and is determined to combat deception aimed at consumers.
Today's actions were not aimed at dealers. Indeed the uncovering of these scams is good news for our industry. However, the bigger lesson is that getting your dealership within the clear parameters of advertising regulations is not optional this spring. These same scams went on for an extended period of time in the mortgage industry. Virtually every American was exposed to the radio and TV ads offering to save consumers from the threat of home repossessions before the crackdown in that industry took place. That era is gone. Swift action will be the calling card of Federal regulators, and even faster action must be the response of dealers who may be beyond the edge of compliance.