On Your Side Alert: FTC Used Car Rule

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you've ever bought a used car, then you've seen the Buyers Guide in the window. It's the sticker that tells you if the car has a "Warranty" or it's being sold "As Is." The Federal Trade Commission is proposing updating the Used Car Rule and they want to hear from you.

By law, a Buyers Guide is required to be in the window of every used car. It's been that way since 1985. The Federal Government says it's time for a change. Consumer Attorney, John Gayle agrees. "These Buyers Guides have become of such little use because nobody really relies on them to give them any significant information," he says.

Some of the changes proposed by the FTC include: A statement encouraging consumers to research the car's history, a statement in Spanish -- Alerting customers they can request a Spanish-Language Guide. Another upgrade would be new boxes about all the warranties that may apply to the car. "Make the car dealers simply responsible for telling what they know, if they know it," Gayle says.

Gayle and other consumer advocates say change is good, but argue the proposed updates are not strong enough and offer no real benefit. Gayle wants more transparency. "This transparency would require the dealers to disclose any prior title branding, if they know about it or any prior wrecks, if they know about it or any flooding or any Lemon Law buy-backs," he says.

The Federal Government is still trying to decided how to make the Buyers Guides more effective.  While consumer advocates want to see stronger regulations, auto dealers say the proposed changes are just fine. "I am not a big fan of over regulation but I am a fan of making sure consumers know exactly what they are buying, so they can make an informed decision whether they want to buy it or not," says Don Hall, President and CEO of The Virginia Auto Dealers Association.

He believes the FTC is siding with dealers and wants less regulation. Hall says over regulation can give car buyers a false sense of security. "We are dealing with problems that were created by someone else. We are doing our level best to make sure we find out about those problems, and disclose them to the consumers because we have a responsibility to do so as experts in the Auto Industry," Hall explains.

Consumer advocates want dealers to use sites like NMVTIS to alert car buyers of problems. The government site, collects vehicle history information, similar to Carfax.  Gayle would like to see a sticker posted in the window of all used cars with problems collected by the site. California has already adopted the rule.

"The car dealer organizations don't want to do this because they say it is too costly, and these brands aren't the same and it will create chaos. The problem is, they won't sell as many cars," Gayle says. The cost is one dollar per report, a price Gayle says dealers shouldn't mind paying to give consumers piece of mind.

"NMVTIS is a good idea but unfortunately, not all states report, not all states have accurate information. Until we have that, we still live in a situation, where today, my best advice is to buy a car from someone you know, someone you trust. Do all the research you can and make sure you talk to your dealer about that research as well," Hall says.

If you want to see changes to the Used Car Rule, the FTC provides a form on its website where you can voice your concern and suggest changes. The deadline for consumer input to is Wednesday, March 13, 2013.

Copyright 2013 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.