Legal Reminder: Advertising Rules Apply To Your Website


The same advertising rules that apply to TV, radio, and print advertising also apply to material on dealership websites.  Recently, several dealer website advertising violations have been brought to IADA's attention.

  • Coupons.  Several dealership website home pages contain an option to print out a $100 Instant Savings Certificate that can be applied toward the purchase of a new or used vehicle.  Although dealers can offer coupons for parts and service, the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act unambiguously prohibits the use of coupons in connection with vehicle purchases.  Section 2J.1 of the Act states: "No coupon shall be offered in connection with any retail sale of a motor vehicle".
  • Footnotes and asterisks.  Pursuant to Section 475.220 of the advertising rules, an advertisement cannot use a footnote or an asterisk to materially modify a statement made in an advertisement.  If you offer a discount on a vehicle price and then use an asterisk to disclose that the discount is only available to certain, qualifying customers or that requires the customer to contact the dealership for details, you have committed a Section 475.220 violation (as well as a limited rebate violation). Recently one Illinois dealership entered a consent decree with the Attorney General's Office over advertising violations requiring the dealership to pay a SEVEN-FIGURE FINE!*
  • Rebates.  Section 475.450 of the advertising rules provides that a limited rebate, defined as a rebate that is not generally available to every customer seeking to purchase or lease a vehicle, cannot be deducted from the advertised price of a vehicle.  Some examples of limited rebates include owner loyalty rebates, first time buyer rebates, and rebates tied to the use of a manufacturer's captive finance company.  If you offer a $30,000 vehicle with a $2,000 rebate that is available to all customers and a $1,000 rebate that is available only to finance customers, you cannot advertise the car at a price of $27,000 after all rebates.  Instead, you must state that the after rebate price is $28,000 and that finance customers can save an additional $1,000.  

A copy of the motor vehicle advertising rules are available at www.illinoisdealers.com.  Please take a few moments to give your website an advertising "checkup". Once the Attorney General's Office starts investigating your advertisements, it may start looking at deal files and look for Truth in Lending Act or other transactional violations.

*Two of the figures were to the right of the decimal point.  Regardless, a $10,000 fine is a substantial penalty.