My car was unfairly booted

July 10, 2013 18:29 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

Last night my husband and I went out for ice cream and parked in the lot in front of the ice cream parlor. We put $5 in the drop box as the sign instructed.  We got our ice cream and went for a walk while we ate it. We came back to our car half an hour later and discovered that it had been booted.  This is extremely unfair and I want to file a complaint.  Whom should I contact?

Consumer Ed says: 

If you believe your car was wrongfully booted and want to file a complaint, you have several options:

•    First, contact the booting company and talk to a service representative.  If you aren’t satisfied with the response you get, ask to speak to the manager or owner.  Some booting companies have online complaint forms that you can submit through the company’s website.  

•    Contact the property owner of the parking facility.  Property owners contract with booting companies, giving them permission to boot cars illegally parked on their property.  They should be notified if a company is booting legally parked vehicles, as this could have a detrimental impact on their business.

•    Some municipalities and counties require that a booting company have a special license to boot cars in that area. If a license is required where you were booted, check to see if the company is properly licensed and file a complaint with the local licensing authority. Depending on the county or municipality, this may be the city or county business license and permitting office or the police department.

•    If you believe that you have given the company enough time to resolve the problem and they have failed to do so, file a complaint with the Business Bureau at www.bbb.org.  

In Georgia, car booting is generally regulated at the county or city level.  Car booting is illegal in some areas, such as the unincorporated areas of Cherokee County, Clayton County, Cobb County and Gwinnett County.  In other counties and municipalities, there are special rules that regulate car booting companies, including limiting the fees that can be charged to remove a car boot; requiring that signage be prominently posted in parking areas where cars are subject to booting; requiring companies to provide a receipt with their company name and contact information when they’re paid to remove a car boot; and requiring that car booting companies be locally licensed.

Consumers should keep the following tips in mind:

•    Before you park your vehicle anywhere, look for signs indicating whether parking is allowed, whether you must pay to park there (and how much), how long you’re allowed to leave your vehicle after you pay, and the potential consequences for improperly parking your vehicle, including car booting or towing. 

•    Don’t park in parking lots or spaces assigned to a particular business if you are actually going to visit another business.  A booting company may be watching to see which business you enter, and even if you do enter the right business at some point, if you leave and go to another business, your vehicle may still get booted.    

•    If you find your car has been booted, immediately call the booting company at the number indicated on any notice left on your vehicle, or the number provided on the parking signage.  Get information on why the booting company believes you were parked improperly.  If you pay to remove the car boot, make sure you get a receipt, the name of the person who removed the boot, and the name of the booting company.  All of this information will be important if you choose to dispute the car boot later.

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Does company have to sell car at low price listed in ad?

June 27, 2013 18:27 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

While looking online to find a low priced car, I found a car listed at a price of $22.  Does the company have to sell it to me at that price?

Consumer Ed says: 

Generally, advertised vehicles must be sold at or below the advertised price.  While advertisements are not generally considered offers, it might be sufficient to create a contractual offer if someone is advertising a specific car at a specific price.  If it is an offer, then a consumer should be able to give the seller the advertised price and create a contract.  But, if an offer has a mistake in it, the seller may be able to withdraw the offer.  If the advertised price was unreasonable and obviously a mistake, as it would seem a price of $22 for a car would be, then the mistake would most likely mean that the seller does not have to sell the car to you at that price. 

However, if you inform the company about the advertisement, and it doesn’t correct the price within a reasonable time frame, then the company gives the appearance that it is attempting to deceive the consuming public.  It’s possible that the company is employing a technique known as “bait and switch,”  an advertising scheme in which products are offered without an intention to sell them in order to establish contact with consumers and get them to switch to a different (usually higher-priced) product.  This is unlikely given the unreasonably low price of the car; but if you think something is amiss, then you can submit a complaint to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection by visiting www.consumer.ga.gov, or calling 404-651-8600.  You can also contact the FTC by visiting www.ftc.gov, or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

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Is it legal for a car dealer to charge a fee for dealer services?

May 21, 2013 22:42 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

My daughter purchased a car and the dealer charged her $599 for dealer services.  I heard this is not legal, but the dealer says it is.  She paid it because the car was such a good deal.  Do we have any recourse?

Consumer Ed says:

Subject to a very significant qualification, car dealers are generally allowed to charge “dealer services” fees.  Different dealers use different names for these types of fees—“administrative fees,” “document fees,” “processing fees,” “dealer fees,” “customer service fees,” etc. There is no statutory cap on the amount of such fees that dealers are allowed to charge. 

However, there’s a very important condition:  Even though dealers are allowed to charge these extra fees, if the vehicle is advertised, then they must be included in the advertised price of the vehicle.

For example, let’s say a dealer runs an online or newspaper advertisement showing a particular car on its lot for sale at a price of $10,000.  If you go to the lot to purchase the car, the dealer cannot then charge you an additional $500 for document fees or other such fees, which would cause the price to become $10,500.  What the dealer can legally do is charge $9,500 for the car and $500 for the document fees (which would then equal the total advertised price $10,000).  Other types of fees/charges that MUST be included in the advertised price of vehicles include freight charges, transportation charges, destination charges, dealer preparation charges, overhead charges, and any other terms of similar import.

The only fees that are not required to be included in the advertised price are government fees, which include tax, tag, title, Georgia Lemon Law, and Warranty Rights Act (“WRA”) fees. 

If you believe a car dealer has charged you unfairly based upon the advertised price, you can file a complaint with the Governor’s Office of Consumer Protection by calling (404) 651-8600 or going to our website at www.consumer.ga.gov.

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