Dealers can't slide on customer credit-score notices

Jim Henry is a special correspondent for Automotive News

A federal judge in Washington said last week that dealers must continue to provide notices to consumers about the use of credit scores in setting interest rates. That includes dealers who don't even look at the credit scores.

Paul Metrey, chief regulatory counsel for the National Automobile Dealers Association, said in many cases it's the lender, not the dealer, who obtains the customer's credit score and uses it to make credit decisions. NADA had asked the court whether in those cases, the dealer still has to send the notice.

The answer was yes -- even if the dealer never obtains, reviews or otherwise makes any use of the credit score, Metrey said.

He said NADA plans to appeal.

Metrey said it's clear that dealers who obtain a customer's credit score have to provide the notice; that wasn't in question.

The rules took effect last year. Consumers are entitled to a notice if unfavorable information on their credit report means they were offered "a higher interest rate than the most favorable terms available to the majority of consumers." Because that definition is so vague, NADA recommends that dealers should err on the side of caution and simply send everyone who gets approved a notice.

This is why people shudder when they hear: "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you."