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DONNA HARRIS

Don't blame the ad agency for legal blunders

Donna Harris covers retail issues for Automotive News
Tom Hudson, a partner in a Washington law firm that represents car dealers, recently told me attorneys general in several states are scrutinizing auto dealer advertising to see if they're following state advertising rules.

And a fair number of dealers are getting cited for violations. But often it's not the dealer's ignorance or contempt of the law that's landing the dealership in trouble. No, Hudson says that in many cases the problem is with the dealer's advertising agency.

The ad agency comes up with what it thinks is a clever advertisement without knowing the ad violates the rules. And the dealer approves the ad without sending it by an attorney.

Sometimes the ad just promises more than the dealer delivers. For example, it boasts a large selection of low-mileage executive cars for sale, when the inventory is mostly just off-lease vehicles.

The upshot? Dealers, you need to exercise due diligence. If your business name is on the ad, you'd better make sure it's clear, fair and accurate.

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