Buying an RV? Here's What to Look for to Avoid RV Fraud
With Millennials and Gen Xers pushing RV sales to record highs, it’s time to talk about RV fraud
After years of notable decline, RV sales are on the riseIn a post-recession world dominated by technology and immediate entertainment, it*s no surprise the recreational vehicle (RV) market took a massive hit between 2005 and 2013. With various retailers and manufacturers closing their doors across the county, the RV market appeared to be on its last leg.
Yet, with the growing popularity of *glamping* * camping in glamorous fashion * and increased RV sales by Millennials and Gen Xers, the RV industry has reached a renaissance, or RV-naissance, as we may call it.
Gen Xers (those aged 35 to 55) have already replaced Baby Boomers as the most likely RV owners, with Millennials (aged 18 to 35) following right behind. According to RV insiders, the recent growth in RV sales can be explained by various market factors, such as smaller RVs, post-recession market growth, high-tech amenities offered by newer RVs, and, of course, the priceless nostalgia one feels when hitting the open road with nothing but four wheels and a full tank of gas.
What prospective RV buyers need to look out for to avoid RV fraudGiven the hefty price tag that comes with buying an RV, many retailers offer pre-owed, used, or refurbished RVs at discounted sale prices in an effort to appeal to the purchasing power of Gen Xers and Millennials.
Of course, with the increased sales of used, pre-owned, and refurbished RVs comes the need for prospective purchasers to be ever-vigilant of over-zealous sales agents and retailers who will say anything to make a sale, oftentimes at the purchaser*s expense.
No matter how you look at it, people around Florida are exploring RV dealerships looking for the best price on the best RV. As local consumer protection attorneys, we*ve developed the knowledge to help ensure you*re adequately informed and protected when purchasing a new RV to avoid unsavory business tactics, disreputable sales tactics, and fraud in the sale of RVs.
Florida*s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices ActDesigned to protect consumers from retailers who commit deceptive trade practices, the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is a body of law that prohibits unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in conduct of any trade or commerce.
The concept of *unfair and deceptive* conduct under the FDUTPA is extremely broad. For example, a practice will be deemed *unfair* under the FDUTPA if it offends established public policy or if the practice is immoral, unethical, oppressive, unscrupulous, or substantially injurious to consumers. Similarly, a *deceptive act* occurs under the FDUTPA if a representation, omission, or practice is likely to mislead a consumer acting reasonably under the circumstances, to said consumer*s detriment.
FDUPTA in the Context of RV salesAs licensed dealerships, RV dealers are held to a higher standard of care under the FDUTPA. Florida Statutes impose certain responsibilities on RV dealers and make it *an unfair or deceptive act or practice, actionable under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act* (FDUTPA) for a dealer to, for example:
- Represent the previous usage or status of a vehicle to be something that it was not, or make usage or status representations unless the dealer has correct information regarding the history of the vehicle to support the representations;
- Represent the quality of care, regularity of servicing, or general condition of a vehicle unless known by the dealer to be true and supportable by material fact;
- Represent orally or in writing that a particular vehicle has not sustained structural or substantial skin damage unless the statement is made in good faith and the vehicle has been inspected by the dealer or his or her agent to determine whether the vehicle has incurred such damage;
- Obtain signatures from a customer on contracts that are not fully completed at the time the customer signs or which do not reflect accurately the negotiations and agreement between the customer and the dealer; and
- Require or accept a deposit from a prospective customer prior to entering into a binding contract for the purchase and sale of a vehicle unless the customer is given a written receipt that states how long the dealer will hold the vehicle from other sale and the amount of the deposit, and clearly and conspicuously states whether and upon what conditions the deposit is refundable or nonrefundable.
* 501.976(3), (4), (5), (9) and (10), Fla. Stat. As noted above, the FDUTPA outlaws any unconscionable, unfair, and deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce. * 501.204, Fla. Stat. A RV dealer found in violation of the act can be found liable for damages PLUS attorney*s fees.
As an example, in a recent case in Hillsborough County, an RV dealer was found to have violated the FDUPTA in the sale of an RV, and was ordered to accept back the RV, with a transfer of title back to dealer, and repay the buyer for the money owed on his loan, plus attorney*s fees and court costs. Tago v. RV One Superstores, Inc., FLWSUPP 2512TAGO, Case No. 17-CA-008053 (Fla. 13th Jud. Cir., Feb. 12, 2018, Hillsborough County).
What to look out for when buying a used RVIf you*re in the market for an RV, always be cautious of any representations made by the seller in relation to previous usage or status of a vehicle, structural or substantial skin damage, quality of care, regularity of servicing, or general condition of an RV unless you*ve had an independent third party perform an inspection of the vehicle to ensure such statements or claims.
As the buyer, you should always be afforded the opportunity to have an independent third party perform an inspection of the RV, as failure to do so could result in you waving your rights and purchasing the vehicle AS-IS, expressly disclaiming your right to rescind the contract in the event the seller*s representations turn out to be false and/or misleading. Additionally, consider running an AutoCheck report to learn more about the vehicle history, as many accidents, auction announcements, and odometer readings are reported in such reports.
If any dealership prevents or hinders your ability to have a third party inspect the RV prior to purchase, that alone should be enough of a red flag to take your business elsewhere.
Need help dealing with RV fraud?If you or someone you know believes he or she was a victim of unfair or deceptive trade practices in the sale or purchase of an RV, it*s important to know your rights and how to protect yourself. Time is generally of the essence when it comes to rescinding an RV purchase, so don*t delay.
The law firm of Cynthia Conlin and Associates is experienced in handling these types of matters and negotiating with RV dealerships to potentially resolve your claims and grievances.