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Compliance

The Current Climate for Regulatory Compliance

The retail automotive market has found itself in an interesting situation. On one hand, retail sales are rebounding nicely, with strong price pressure coupled with continued low interest rates. On the other hand, all signs are pointing to an increased environment for regulatory scrutiny from an  hyper-focused Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and various local officials.

New leadership within the CFPB has signaled through their rulemaking agenda that automotive lending practices will garner increased scrutiny. New legislative bodies within state and local governments in many areas have followed suit to respond to discriminatory lending practices and perceived predatory consumer behavior.

Couple this renewed regulatory interest and sales environment, with a host of new fraud and cybersecurity schemes that can trip up any company, no matter how big, and the situation gets even more convoluted.

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Industry Trends Training

Compliance Training Counts

We are nearing the end of the first full month with the new Administration and there has been a lot of activity from Washington. Vaccine distribution is rolling out, COVID-19 cases are trending down across much of the country, and Congress has a stimulus package to address. All of these actions bode well for the retail automotive industry, which is eager to ramp up sales.

There have been some notable actions around compliance. Former Federal Trade Commission (FTC) member Rohit Chopra has been nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). During his tenure with the FTC, Chopra was active in pursuing abusive and discriminatory lending practices. Specifically, Chopra has signaled interest in establishing more protections against auto lending abuses, specifically for members of the military, Black and Hispanic consumers. If confirmed, Chopra would replace current CFPB head Kathy Kraninger.

And, while recent efforts on the virus front look positive, consumers have become accustomed to shopping online and this trend is likely to continue. Dealers who have successfully pivoted to a more digital sales model are expected to continue to see success. But an increased focus on compliance from federal, state, and local entities calls for a solid compliance training refresher for dealer sales and F&I staff.

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Compliance

May I Text You?

Contributing Author: Steve Roennau Vice President Compliance EFG Companies
Contributing Author:
Steve Roennau
Vice President
EFG Companies

This might seem like a trite question in today’s digital, over-socialized world. While obtaining permission from a customer to text them has always been a legal requirement, recent court cases have reminded the retail automotive industry that indeed, dealerships must have permission prior to sending a text.  

In the past, regulators were focused on companies sending out marketing texts to customers they did not have permission to text. Now, regulations may be enforced on something as simple as a salesperson texting a customer with a follow-up message on an available vehicle.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act

Specifically, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs any dealership’s phone call or text message marketing. Let’s review the rules under the TCPA.

If you want to send a customer a text message, you must obtain prior written consent before sending anything. Written consent can include hand-written signatures or even a simple email. You can also obtain consent by including it in your contact form on your website. Simply add a checkbox asking if the customer consents to being contacted via email, phone call, or text.

You may call/text your current customers and former customers for 18 months after your relationship with them ends, even if they are on the national Do-Not-Call list. This includes both sales and service relationships, i.e., when they buy a car or even rotate their tires.