The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed new regulations that target dealership ads and F&I practices, which National Automobile Dealers Association purports will dramatically expand document retention needs across the industry.
Though the record-keeping rules would include documents dealers already save, but dealers would have to keep them longer. The FTC regulations also recommend retaining text messages between salespeople and consumers.
Dealerships would need to keep multiple records for 24 months under the proposed regulations. This includes:
Advertisements, sales scripts, training and marketing materials that pertain to price, financing or leasing vehicles. A representative example will pass must if ads are fairly consistent and show the same financing terms.
Purchase orders, financing and lease documents signed by consumers, whether or not the dealership approves them for financing or lease transactions.
Written communications relating to sales, financing, or leasing through the dealership with any consumer who signs a purchase order or financing or lease contract.
Records proving F&I products and physical aftermarket vehicle add-ons comply with regulations.
Copies of all written consumer complaints pertaining to sales, financing or leasing, inquiries related to add-ons, and inquiries and responses about models covered by the rules.
These requirements will compel dealerships to keep multiple new categories of documents beyond what’s typically required.
The FTC maintains “These record-keeping provisions are necessary to ensure that dealers make required disclosures under the Rule. They will also assist the Commission in assessing dealers' compliance with the Rule and help to ensure its effectiveness. These record-keeping obligations are consistent with and similar to requirements included in similar Commission disclosure rules."
Industry experts suggest keeping texts is impractical and places a financial burden on dealerships, who must issue electronic devices to staff to meet these requirements. They say dealerships cannot gain access to texts on personal phones unless their employees waive their right to privacy and granted device access to their employers.
They also say it will be technologically difficult to preserve materially different documents without software to track every alteration.
The FTC has not yet responded to these concerns.
Some state consumer privacy laws contain exemptions to document retention under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. These laws may reduce the burden on dealerships to manage individual pieces of data.