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Taking a look at your auto dealership compliance checklist every quarter will help avoid any unfortunate surprises
Just hearing the word is enough to send shivers up the spine of any auto dealership owner, manager, or employee.
It’s not that you don’t want to follow the rules—it’s just that there are so many of them. Federal and random state regulations combined, many dealerships are on the hook for managing around 100 different laws that pertain to the way they do business.
Smart dealerships know that they can’t handle compliance all by themselves. If you haven’t done so already, hire a legal consultant to audit procedures, pinpoint issues in your business, and create an auto dealership compliance checklist to make sure everything is on the up-and-up. You may also want to hire a compliance officer so you can operate your business knowing you have someone there every day looking out for possible problems.
Your job doesn’t end there, though. That initial work on your part is crucial, but total compliance in your dealership requires regular check-ups as well. Well-run businesses come up with ongoing plans to ensure they’re always practicing what they’re preaching. In the case of compliance, this can be achieved be creating an auto dealership compliance checklist that you revisit every quarter.
7 Points to consider on your 90-day auto dealership compliance checklist
With all of the different laws involved, they only ones who should make your final quarterly auto dealership compliance checklist are a lawyer or your compliance officer. To give you an idea of what yours should contain though, here’s a sample checklist to get the ball rolling:
1. CAN-SPAM Act
- Every email you send is clearly identified as being from your dealership.
- Your email subject lines are accurate reflection as to what message is inside.
- If someone has not opted into your mailing list, your emails to them clearly state that you’re sending an advertisement.
- Every email you send includes a physical address and dealership contact info.
- Individuals who opt-out of their email subscriptions are removed from the list within ten days.
- You have a privacy notice that gives customers a clear and conspicuous written notice that describes your dealership’s privacy policies and practices.
- The privacy notice is given to anyone who provides you with personal information in connection with a potential transaction, and you plan on sharing that information with a non-affiliated third party.
3. Regulation Z
- The consumer credit information in your ads is accurate, does not make any misleading statements, and notes whether certain terms may be subject to restrictions or qualifications.
- Ads disclose all terms of loans to potential borrowers, including, but not limited to interest rates, applicable fees, and length of loans.
- When a consumer report is no longer needed, immediately shred the paper file, or destroy the electronic file.
- No papers or files containing consumer information are sitting out in the open.
- You let consumers know the names and addresses of any sales finance companies where you may shop their contract.
- You report voluntary account closings and accurately report delinquencies.
- You take the appropriate steps after receiving a notice of a consumer dispute from a consumer or a consumer reporting agency.
- You only run a credit check if: the consumer expresses an interest in buying a car on credit, you get the consumer’s written consent, the customer says they want to pay with a personal check, or the customer asks for credit options to finance a specific purchase.
- You do not run credit reports when a customer is window shopping, someone asks to test drive a vehicle, you want to know whether it is “worth it” to spend time with a specific customer, or to respond to general questions about available products or financing.
- You are not denying warranty claims or voiding warranties if your customer went to an independent mechanic, a chain shop, or performed repairs or maintenance on their own.
- You are not voiding warranties if another mechanic used aftermarket or recycled parts.
- Every used vehicle you’re selling displays a window sticker, known as a Buyer’s Guide.
- Each Buyer’s Guide contains full and complete details about whether or not your dealership offers a warranty, and if so, what that warranty includes.
- The back of the Buyer’s Guide lists your dealership’s name, address, and the name/phone number of who they should contact at the dealership if there are any problems after they purchase the vehicle.
Compliance shouldn’t be a DIY project
When it comes to ensuring your dealership is 100% compliant, don’t cut corners. Hire legal and compliance experts and pay them well to keep you and your customers protected. One compliance slip-up could result in hefty fines for your dealership—fines so large, in some cases, that they could potentially shut down your entire operation.