Dear Governor Scott,
In spite of the best efforts of Consumer Advocates and others to have HB 55 reconsidered in light of it’s adverse impact on the average consumer who purchases a car we are faced with the reality that it may become law.
It is obvious that the purchase of an automobile is not only a considerable expenditure, but in this day of mobility, a necessity. When a purchaser answers the inducements made in the tremendous advertising campaigns carried on by the auto industry and purchases an automobile that purchaser has a right to rely on the advertisements and inducements that result in a purchase. Under the leadership of Bob Butterworth as AG Florida passed a compressive Lemon Law, which has served the auto industry and the purchaser well. The Lemon Law Section has provided the venue for the hearing and resolution of complaints.
The reasons to veto the bill are many and we here list some of the most obvious:
1. Vehicle purchasers as opposed to those deceived by any other business are singled out for less protection.
2. The 30-day notice period insulates dealers from suit w/o any exposure for damages.
3. Purchasers relying on transportation for work and family activities can ill afford to go through the process of filing with the dealer in 30 days and then awaiting resolution.
4. The pre-suit notice & documents to be prepared and served on the dealer is so complex that the average consumer will not be able to meet it’s conditions w/o the aid of an attorney which the consumer can ill afford and which attorneys will be reluctant to pursue. The economics speak for themselves.
5. The dealers exposure is only the actual fraud damages which alone makes it difficult for a purchaser to determine and to claim. Penalties should be severe enough to dissuade fraudulent business conduct.
6. Bills like HB 55 enable deceptive practices by dealers to keep their activities out of the public eye.
7. When a trade in is involved the dealer can wholesale or otherwise dispose of the trade in. This would make it almost impossible for purchase to seek injunctive relief prohibit a dealer from selling a purchasers trade in or seeking to prevent a repo by the dealer.
8. This process may allow dealers to “pick off” purchasers who would otherwise be able to get relief in a class action.
The law as it now stands has served both dealers and purchasers well. Arbitration can also be time consuming and expensive and the auto industry, with experience in arbitration of such cases has a substantial advantage over the consumer who does not know the arbitrators that are listed and probably has never had to be a party to an arbitration. How much time do you think the average purchaser has to deal with this kind of an issue when faced with taking time off work or taking care of their children.
I would suggest that this bill be vetoed. If the dealers can show clearly that the current law is an unaffordable expense then there may be other options such as allowing such matters to be handled by the Lemon Law program with enabling legislation. Nowhere in the staff analysis was there a cost benefit study as applied to the dealer and to the purchaser. If we are truly concerned about the cost of government then this bill needs such an analysis.
Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast
Former Assistant Special Consumer Counsel to Governor Askew