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  • Dealer-related Information in Maine

    Maine is a curious mixture of Yankee individuality and big-state social services and consumer protections. Its laws regarding car dealers are a good example. Just next door to the original "Live Free or Die" state (New Hampshire), which is known for its easygoing rules governing car sales, Maine has some of the toughest consumer-protection laws in the United States.

    Requirements for Auto Dealers

    Maine's attorney general developed a set of rules governing advertising layouts, vehicle pricing, the availability of advertised vehicles, and rebate offers. The rules have been in effect since October 1, 2005, and affected all new and used car dealers in Maine.

    Advertising Rules

    • Prohibited features in ad layouts:
    • Use of footnotes or asterisks.
    • Small print that is difficult to read.
    • Color contrasts that make certain parts of text difficult to read.
    • Inaccurate photos or illustrations.
    • Unexplained abbreviations or technical jargon.
    • Vehicle availability:
    • Sales vehicles advertised at a specific price must be identified and in the dealer's possession.
    • Disclosure must be made when only limited numbers of vehicles are available or advertised vehicles are not immediately available.
    • Price disclosures:
    • Vehicles with advertised prices must be fully identified.
    • The advertised price must include all dealer-installed options.
    • The advertised price need not include state and local taxes, or title fees.
    • Options installed at the customer's request need not be included in the advertised price.
    • An ad that offers zero down payment cannot require immediate payment of extra charges.
    • Advertised discounts must refer to the MSRP.
    • MSRP advertising:
    • Comparing the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) with the dealer price is prohibited unless:
    • The advertised MSRP is in fact the "bottom line" manufacturer's suggested retail price listed on the window sticker.
    • The advertised MSRP does not include any extra charges added by the dealer.
    • MSRP is called "MSRP" or "manufacturer's suggested retail price."
    • Minimum trade-in allowances:
    • Advertising minimum trade-in allowances is prohibited.
    • Rebates:
    • "Rebate" or similar terms can be used only when payment of money will be made by the dealer or manufacturer to a purchaser after the sale, or the amount will be credited to the purchaser at the time of sale.
    • If an advertisement states that a motor vehicle is offered at a specified price that "includes all rebates," the rebates must only include those for which a substantial majority of customers will qualify.
    • If the advertised price of the motor vehicle has been increased to offset the rebate in part or in whole, this information must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in the ad.

    The above rules are highlights. For more information about Maine's new vehicle advertising laws, read the attorney general's press release.

    Used Car Dealers

    Maine is one of only two states in the country―along with Wisconsin―to not adopt national standards regarding used car sales. This because Maine actually has its own standards for used car dealers that are tougher than the national standard. These laws are monitored by the attorney general's office and include the following provisions:

    • Used car dealers must register all cars for sale with the state as "used" vehicles.
    • Used car dealers are required to guarantee that any used vehicle purchased from them can pass inspection. If the defect requiring repair is minor, the dealer must repair it. If the car requires major repairs, you can ask the dealer for a refund or replacement. The dealer can sell a car that it knows cannot pass inspection, but it must be labeled as "unsafe."
    • Used car dealers must post a sticker on all cars for sale detailing previous ownership, use, repairs, known defects, and warranties.

    More information is available from Maine's Attorney General.

    Maine's Lemon Law

    Maine has a Lemon Law that calls for binding arbitration between car dealers and customers when disagreements occur over ongoing problems with dealer-sold motor vehicles.

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