For purposes of this chapter, a violation of the following regulated advertising practices shall be an unfair, deceptive, or misleading act or practice.
A. New motor vehicle. A motor vehicle shall not be advertised as new, either by word or implication, unless it is one which conforms to the definition of a "new motor vehicle" as defined in 24VAC20-110-20.
B. Used motor vehicle.
1. The fact that a motor vehicle is used should be clearly and unequivocally expressed by the term "used" or by such other term as is commonly understood to mean that the vehicle is used. For example, "special purchase" by itself is not a satisfactory disclosure; however, such terms as "demonstrator" or "former leased and/or rental vehicles" used alone clearly express that they meet the definition of a used vehicle for advertising purposes. When in doubt, the dealer should provide more information or simply say "used."
2. Once a certificate of origin as defined in §§ 46.2-1900, 46.2-1992, or 46.2-1993 of the Code of Virginia has been assigned to a purchaser, the motor vehicle becomes a used vehicle and must be advertised as such.
C. Finance charges or interest rates advertisements.
1. Advertisements of finance charges or other interest rates "below market" (or words to that effect) shall not be used unless it is manufacturer or distributor sponsored or substantiated by a written agreement with the finance source.
2. Advertisement of finance charges or other interest rates shall not be used when there is a cost to buy-down said charge or rate which is passed on, in whole or in part, to the purchaser.
D. Terms, conditions, and disclaimers.
1. When terms, conditions or disclaimers are used, they shall always be stated clearly and conspicuously. An asterisk or other reference symbol may be used to point to a disclaimer or other information; but, the disclaimer shall not be used as a means of contradicting or changing the meaning of an advertised statement. In addition, they must meet the Federal Trade Commission Truth in Lending Act Requirements 15 USC §§ 1601 et seq., 12 CFR 226 (Regulation Z) or the Federal Trade Commission Truth in Leasing Act Requirements, as applicable.
2. In all printed media, where terms, conditions or disclaimers are used, they shall be clearly and conspicuously visible and printed in not less than 6-point upper case type print. When billboards, portable signs, posters, etc., are used, all terms, conditions or disclaimers need to be displayed and phrased in a manner which is clear and conspicuous.
3. In radio ads, where terms, conditions or disclaimers are used, they shall be clearly announced during the ad. They must be explained clearly and at an understandable speed and volume level.
4. In television ads, where terms, conditions or disclaimers are used, they shall be clearly and conspicuously displayed or announced, or both, during the ad. They shall be at an understandable speed or understandable volume level, or both.
E. Sale or sales. The expiration date of an advertised "sale" shall be clearly and conspicuously disclosed. If the sale exceeds 30 days, the advertiser should be prepared to substantiate that the offering is indeed a valid reduction and has not become his regular price.
F. "List price," "sticker price," "suggested retail price." These terms and similar terms shall be used only as follows:
1. In reference to the manufacturer's or distributor's suggested retail price for new vehicles; or
2. The dealer's own usual and customary price for used vehicles.
G. "Cost" and "invoice price" terms.
1. "At cost," "below cost," "$ off cost" shall not be used in advertisements because of the difficulty in determining a dealer's actual net cost at the time of sale.
2. "Invoice price," "$ over invoice," may be used, provided that the invoice referred to is the manufacturer's factory invoice, distributor's invoice, or a bona fide bill of sale, as applicable, and that it is available for customer inspection.
3. "Manufacturer's factory invoice" or "distributor's invoice" means that document supplied by the manufacturer or the distributor listing the manufacturer's or distributor's charge to the dealer before any deduction for items such as holdback, group advertising, factory incentives or rebates, or any governmental charges.
H. Price or credit terms of advertised vehicles. When the price or credit terms of a vehicle are advertised in print, radio, or television, the vehicle should be fully identified as to year, make, and model. In addition, in all advertisements placed by individual dealers and not marketing groups, the stated price or credit terms shall include all charges which the buyer must pay to the seller including "freight" or "destination charges." If there are deferred payments on credit sales where accrued finance charges are ultimately charged to the consumer for any part of the deferred period, then these charges must be clearly stated. State and local fees and taxes need not be included in the stated price. If the buyer will be required to pay to the seller charges which increase the advertised price, the charges must be disclosed and priced in the advertisement.
I. Matching or bettering competitor's price ads. Advertisements which set out a policy matching or bettering a competitor's price shall not be used unless the terms of the offer are specific, verifiable, and reasonable. All terms of the offer shall be included in the disclosure and disclaimer area and may not say such things as "rules or terms available in showroom" or "available before delivery." You must fully disclose as a part of the ad any material or significant conditions which must be met or the evidence the consumer must present to take advantage of the offer.
J. Advertisements of dealer rebates shall not be used. Offers to match down payments or guarantee minimum trade-in allowances are forms of dealer rebates.
K. "Free," "at no extra cost" terms. In a negotiated sale no "free," "at no cost" (or any words to that effect) offer of equipment, accessory, other merchandise or service, shall be made. No equipment, accessory, other merchandise or service shall be described as "free" or "at no cost," if its cost, or any part of its cost, is included in the price of the vehicle, or if the vehicle can be purchased for a lesser price without accepting the free offer, or if a purchase is required in order to receive the free offer.
L. "Bait advertising" shall not be used.
1. The purpose of this section is to ensure that customers will be informed the vehicle is in limited quantity or availability. If a specific vehicle is advertised, the seller shall be in possession of a reasonable supply of said vehicles and they shall be available at the advertised price. If the advertised vehicle is available only in limited numbers or only by order, that shall be stated in the ad. The listing of vehicles by stock numbers or vehicle identification numbers is permissible and is one means of satisfactorily disclosing a limitation of availability, provided a separate number is used for each vehicle. For new vehicles, if the offer is limited, you will be able to say such things as "in stock" or "will order" provided you can order the vehicle just as advertised and delivery can be assured as soon as the manufacturer or distributor can confirm the order and deliver it to your dealership. If you cannot get an order confirmation within 30 days, you must refund all moneys collected from the buyer at his request. If the vehicle is available only by order then it must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the advertisement.
2. Advertising a vehicle at a certain price (including "as low as" statements), but having available for sale only vehicles equipped with dealer added cost "options" which increase the selling price above the advertised price, may also be considered "bait advertising."
3. If a lease payment is advertised, the fact that it is a lease arrangement shall be disclosed.
M. The term "repossessed vehicle" shall not be used unless the full criteria of the definition in 24VAC20-110-20 is met. Advertisers offering such vehicles for sale shall provide proof of repossession upon request.
N. "Finance" or "loan." Words such as "finance" or "loan" shall not be used in a motor vehicle dealer advertiser's firm name or trade name, unless that person is actually engaged in the financing of motor vehicles.
O. "Special arrangement or relationship" advertisements. Statements such as "big volume buying power," "manufacturer's outlet," "factory authorized outlet," and "factory wholesale outlet," shall not be used. Any term that gives the consumer the impression the dealer has a special arrangement with the manufacturer or distributor as compared to similarly situated dealers, is misleading and shall not be used.
P. Records retention. Advertisers shall maintain the original or a clear facsimile copy of all ads in a manner that permits systematic retrieval for a period of 60 days subsequent to the expiration date of the advertisement.
Derived from VR485-60-8901 § 2.1, eff. March 29, 1990; amended, Virginia Register Volume 13, Issue 8, eff. February 5, 1997.