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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Brian Pasch

Brian Pasch CEO

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Is The Golden Age of Automotive Blogging Over?

By Brian Pasch silence-bloggers-600-new

David Barkholz, a popular reporter from Automotive News, is once again breaking a very critical story that is impacting dealers.  A number of dealers, who have been critical of TrueCar on automotive blogs, have received letters from the FTC. 

According to Barkholz story:

"In a letter to dealers, the FTC said it is investigating whether some companies in the "retail automobile industry" committed anticompetitive acts "by agreeing to refuse to deal with TrueCar." 

I caught wind of the FTC action because one of my clients received a letter from the FTC.  He was a vocal critic of TrueCar on automotive community blogs. 

I will allow David to continue to cover the story but is there another story related to this action. Will website such as DrivingSales see less managers and executives of automotive dealerships share their opinions about vendors on blogs, forums, and comment areas?

The Golden Age Of Blogging

Is the golden age of automotive blogging over?  Will more dealership groups be writing polices THIS WEEK, forbidding their managers from participating on automotive forums that are open for the FTC to read?

To me, this looks like a ominous black cloud on the horizon.  This is the warning shot over the bow.   Is the FTC gunning for automotive retailers? Are their franchise laws, that have been in place for a hundred years, a subtext in this action?

​What do you have to say about this recent FTC action? 

Is your dealership considering limiting your actions on behalf of the dealership?  Do you have a policy in place today that prohibits executives from blogging about OEM's or vendor partners?

I would also like to hear from the compliance companies that are part of DrivingSales.  Has your phone been ringing as a result of the FTC's recent actions?

 

Brian

Brian Pasch, CEO
PCG Consulting
732.672.2356
Google

Bryan Armstrong
We as dealers are customers of vendors. Sharing opinions on the experience with someone on a public forum is no different than expressing my dissatisfaction with the service I received at the Nike store last week. Can I sue every critic of my business to shut them up? Is Google then a potential defendant for collusion?
Joe Turner
While Bryan is absolutely correct I fear that Brian is right and that many dealers will be fearful of posting how they really feel. This could be compounded by recent news reports about the NSA and the IRS. Then there is the legal counsel that almost every dealership or group has that will be advising dealer principals to restrict their employee's access to such sites.
Jeff Larsen
Government can't do this, it's freedom of speech and still considered heresay in the court of law even if a human profile is attached to the degrading comments on such website article. If an official representative or spokesperson from a dealership slandered True Car untruthfully or unreasonably with the intention to cause financial, branding, ect harm, then True Car would have to pursue legal action against that dealership in civil court. In this case- The govt would have to prove xxx dealerships conspired in an organized manner and were actively campaigning to attract other dealerships in their effort to not use True Car services AND to use xxx Competitor services company instead.
Joe Pozo
As the American born son of Cuban immigrants this sounds like socialism to me. But not surprising considering how our government is acting lately. I agree that as a consumer I have the right to share my ideas about different vendors both good and bad. Should we as dealers start litigation against clients who leave negative reviews about our dealership on Google? I wonder, can I express my ideas here without being suspect with government? Hummm
william cosgrove
Voicing one's opinions is not against the law whether you do it as an individual or as an employee of a company. Freedom of speech is a basic right that applies to every part of society including Business. It is however anti-competitive for businesses to agree not to do business with another company. this is on the list of anti-competitive practices according to Wikipedia- Refusal to deal, e.g., two companies agree not to use a certain vendor. I hope that Dealers are not intimidated by this and investigate what is and isn't an anti-competitive practice before they stop voicing their opinions. That would be a sad day for the Industry.

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