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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | People Search | Personals | Travel | Yellow Pages  January 8, 2005
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Driving Away Your Rights
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It's more important than ever to read that contract carefully. A growing number of dealerships are adding a clause that may have you driving away your rights.

 Buying a new car is exciting, but for many people like Tiffany White, it's also an overwhelming experience.

Tiffany White, Car Buyer

"I'd been there from Noon til almost about 8:00, so I was tired. When a contract was put in front of me, I glimpsed over it quickly and I signed where they told me to sign."

 Weeks later, when she got into a dispute with the dealership and wanted to sue, Tiffany learned about a tiny clause in her contract.


"I didn't know what an arbitration clause was!"

She admits she signed it, her only remedy now, mandatory binding arbitration. That's where an independent third party settles the dispute and the decision is binding, there is no appeal.

Remar Sutton, Pres. Consumer Task Force or Automotive Issues

 "When consumers sign mandatory arbitration clauses, they're signing away their rights and their ability to have a fair hearing in front of a jury."

 Now, more than half of car dealerships are locking the doors on a consumer's right to sue.


"It's a wildfire problem and it's growing because most consumers don't know about it."

Often times the clauses are buried in the fine print of the car contract, on a separate paper, or even on the back.


"At most dealerships, the mandatory arbitration clause is presented just before the person signs the last piece of paper."

Marianne McInerney is with the Auto Dealership Industry. She says it's your responsibility to read every piece of the contract.

Marianne McInerney, Auto Dealership Assoc.

"They will find the dealer or their employee more than readily available to answer those questions." 

If the clause bothers you, tell the salesman it could be a deal breaker.

Bob Kurilko, Edmunds.com

 "Everything is negotiable with a car deal, including the contract. So they can negotiate with the dealer to cross off that arbitration clause."

While some dealerships will negotiate with customers regarding the arbitration clause, other's won't, and if a dealership won't budge, you always have the right to take your business somewhere else. With the Investigators, I'm Problem Solver Susan Hogan Eyewitness News

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