Dear Consumer Ed:
I live in Georgia and am looking to buy a new car. I found a car that was advertised on a popular vehicle sales website for $17,900. When I went to the dealership, the salesperson wanted to charge me an additional $599 dealer fee on top of the advertised price. Can they do that?
Consumer Ed says:
No. Only government fees such as tax, title, tag and Lemon Law fees may be excluded from advertised vehicle prices. The Georgia Attorney General Office’s position is that any other amounts of money that the dealership collects as part of the sale – including, but not limited to, dealer fees, previously installed dealer options, and electronic titling fees – must be included in the advertised price. This pricing requirement extends to any advertised price in any medium, including online advertisements, whether from third-party advertisers, such as Autotrader, or on dealer websites. In your case, the dealer fee should have been included in the vehicle price in the online ad.
While advertisers are allowed to put disclaimers explaining what is going into the cost of the vehicle, they may not try to hide the dealer fee by stating that additional fees may apply. For instance, a dealer cannot fail to add the dealer fee to the advertised price and include “plus dealer fee” in a disclaimer. Rather, the amount of the dealer fee must be contained within whatever price is being listed in the ad.
Failure to include a non-government fee in an advertised price is considered an unfair or deceptive practice, and therefore a violation of Georgia law. If you believe a dealership has charged you unfairly based upon the advertised price, you can file a complaint with the Georgia Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division by calling (404) 651-8600.
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