Regulation of Trade Practices in the Sale of Motor Vehicles
Other Regulation of Unfair, Deceptive, and Unconscionable Trade Practices in the Sale of Motor Vehicles
A. The Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act
1. Mandatory Disclosures
Under the Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act, sellers of motor vehicles are required to make certain disclosures to buyers. §58-19-7. In particular, the dealer must:
a. Include in every contract a statement in bold print entitled, “Notice to Buyer,” which explains that liability insurance is not provided under the contract; and
b. Include a notice advising the customer not to sign the contract before reading it; and
c. Include a notice advising the customer not to sign the contract if it contains any blank spaces; and
d. Inform the customer that he or she is entitled to an exact copy of the contract.
Note that when the buyer acknowledges by signing the contract that he or she has received a copy of the contract and that the contract did not have any blank spaces when signed, the contract shall be conclusive proof of such delivery and condition of the written agreement in any action or proceeding by, or against, the holder of the contract.
In addition, the Act requires the contract to contain the following items:
a. The names of both the seller and buyer, the place of business of the seller, the residence or place of business of the buyer as specified by the buyer and a description of the motor vehicle, including its make, year, model and identification numbers or marks;
b. The cash sale price of the motor vehicle;
c. The amount of the buyer's down payment and whether made in money or goods;
d. The difference between items (b) and (c);
e. The amount, if any, included for insurance and other benefits, specifying the types of coverage and benefits, and if it is the case, including as a benefit amounts paid or to be paid by the seller pursuant to agreement with the buyer to discharge a security interest, lien or lease interest on property traded in;
f. The amount of official fees;
g. The principal balance, which is the sum of items (d), (e) and (f);
h. The amount of the finance charge; and
i. The time balance, which is the sum of items (g) and (h), payable in installments by the buyer to the seller, the number of installments, the amount of each installment and the due date or term thereof.
Finally, if the seller purchases dual interest insurance on the motor vehicle, the seller shall send to the buyer a policy or certificate of insurance clearly stating the amount of the premium, the kind or kinds of insurance, the coverages and all the terms, exceptions, limitations, restrictions and conditions of the contract or contracts of insurance. Seller must provide this policy or certificate to the buyer within thirty days after execution of the retail installment contract. §58-19-7.
A person who willfully violates the Motor Vehicle Sales Finance Act is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. §58-19-11(A). Any person who willfully violates the mandatory disclosure provisions of Article 7 of the Act (requiring a written contract that contains the disclosures outlined above, a copy of which must be given to the buyer by the seller), is barred from recovering the finance charge, delinquency and collection charges, or any other charge from the buyer. §58-19-11(B). A debtor who wins in a civil action under this Act is entitled to reasonable attorney’s fees. §39-2-2.
Provisions in a retail installment contract that attempt to relieve the seller of liability under any legal remedies available under the contract are not enforceable in court.
3. Seller’s Rights and Remedies
The holder of the retail installment contract may, if the contract or refinancing agreement provides, collect a delinquency and collection charge on each payment made ten or more days after its due date, in an amount not in excess of five percent of each installment or fifteen dollars ($15.00), whichever is less. In addition to such delinquency and collection charge, the contract may require payment of attorney fees up to fifteen percent of the amount due and payable under the contract, if the contract is referred for collection to any attorney who is not a salaried employee of the holder of the contract, plus the court costs.
The holder of the retail installment contract is entitled to collect up to $25.00 as a “transfer of equity fee” when a buyer transfers his equity in the motor vehicle to another person.
If the seller or holder of the retail installment contract repossesses a motor vehicle, the buyer shall be responsible for any payment deficiency under the contract. §§58-19-7(J); 55-9-504.