Dear Consumers: While I have found that most automobile dealers, both new and used, treat customers fairly, there are frequent occasions when a customer is injured in a car deal through no fault of the customer. These instances brought on by dealerships and their personnel must be avoided.

In addition, a customer agrees to fully tell the truth in all verbal and written applications and paperwork leading toward financing and delivery of the new or used vehicle.

In an effort to instill confidence in customers when purchasing or trading automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, or any vehicles, dealers which are Gephardt Approved must abide by the following code of ethics:

1) A dealer agrees to fill out all blanks in documents associated with the purchase or lease of a vehicle. Indeed, once the vehicle is delivered, 100% of the blanks will be filled in by the dealership, regardless of notice by the customer.

2) If a customer takes delivery on a vehicle, and later anything that is NOT the customer’s fault goes wrong with the deal, the dealer will not require a customer to select from other vehicles for sale, and will not charge the customer for any miles driven.

3) At the time of delivery of a vehicle, a dealer agrees to know the whereabouts of the vehicles title, and to also know that the vehicle’s title is clear from any liens, and is not stolen. Also, if the vehicle title is “branded,” that must be fully disclosed to the buyer/consumer. For example, if a vehicle is branded “salvage,” the notice of Salvage Certificate must be disclosed. Vehicles branded “water damaged,” or branded in any other fashion must be disclosed to the consumer/buyer prior to the sale. (In other words, it’s okay for a dealership to sell a vehicle in any condition as long as the buyer knows the condition and is willing to make the purchase.)

4) The dealer agrees to deliver to the Department of Motor Vehicles application for title of the delivered vehicle within 20 business days of the sale of the delivery of the vehicle to the customer, providing the customer has made full required payment through financing, or any other means, to the dealer.

5) The dealer agrees not to sell the customer traded-in vehicle to anyone (including an auto auction or another dealership) until the title application is delivered to the customer or the Department of Motor Vehicles on the delivered vehicle.

6) FINANCING: When the SELLER or DEALER agrees to seek arrangements for financing of a new or used vehicle, it is assumed that the dealer (using truthful data provided by the customer, and using dealer expertise based upon daily dealings in the financial markets) will be able to closely estimate the maximum interest rate the customer will ultimately pay for a delivered vehicle. Therefore, a dealer agrees that the final interest rate charged to the customer will not be greater than 3 (three) per cent more than the minimum annual interest rate estimated on the Motor Vehicle Contract of Sale.

7) No new or used car dealer may sell a vehicle for a price greater than the final negotiated sale price in an effort to refund the overcharge to the customer to subsidize a monthly payment with the implied or expressed representation that the vehicle will be refinanced at a future date (“cookie” or “cookie jar close”).

Refunding loaned money to a customer may be done for (A) accessories or vehicle add-ons only in compliance with the dealership agreement with their various financial institutions, or (B) or to refinance other customer debt in compliance with the dealership agreements with their various financial institutions.

8) In a loan or lease payoff, the dealer shall disclose the accurate payoff amount to the customer.

9) Dealers will have full disclosure of all fees and add-ons to the customer.