The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s main advertising regulator, has issued a ruling saying that General Motors and two big used-car chains could advertise their used vehicles as being “certified” and carefully inspected, even if the cars might still be subject to safety recalls for problems that haven’t been fixed. According to a report in The New York Times, the only requirement for dealers would be that they advise buyers that cars could be subject to recalls and give them information about how to find out if the cars are involved in safety recalls.
Lack of Information for Buyers
The FTC’s decision follows a series of high-profile cases in which automakers concealed important information from vehicle owners. This included General Motors’ failure to disclose a deadly ignition switch defect, Volkswagen’s misrepresentation of pollution emissions and Honda’s failure to report potential safety problems for more than 10 years. Used-car dealers specifically have been criticized for selling vehicles under recall without addressing their defects including exploding Takata airbags that have caused 11 deaths in the U.S. The FTC ruling will be in effect for 20 years.
Consumer advocates say this is the worst thing the FTC has ever done on any issue because it is essentially giving auto dealers the go-ahead to indulge in false advertising. Safety advocates say this ruling is particularly troubling at a time when the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is struggling with problems including the recall of 42 million vehicles for faulty Takata airbags. Under this ruling, it would not be necessary for a dealer to tell buyers that the vehicle they are considering buying has a Takata airbag that hasn’t been replaced.
Auto Product Liability Issues
FTC’s decision, although deeply disturbing, should not have an impact on those who are seeking compensation for injuries suffered as a result of defective vehicles. In such cases victims and their families may still be able to file a product liability lawsuit against all parties involved including the dealer, automaker, parts manufacturer, etc. This doesn’t change that fact that automakers have the responsibility to manufacture vehicles that are safe and dealers have a responsibility to sell vehicles that are safe for consumers. Failing to perform safety recall repairs, which are free, is outrageous.
If you are in the market for a used car or a certified used car, be sure to ask your dealer if the car has been repaired for safety recalls. If not, you have the right to ask the dealer to complete those repairs before driving the car off the lot. You can also check if the car you are about to buy has been recalled by going to safercar.gov, and entering the vehicle identification number or VIN.