Archive for August, 2012

Avoid Some Internet Pitfalls and Find Those Internet Nuggets!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

So many things have come up regarding the automotive industry and how it relates to the Internet and want to cover the ones most important to VIADA members.

Equifax is auditing dealers. If you accept credit applications and pull your own credit reports, hear me. We have had several clients tell us the credit reporting agencies have asked them to provide the actual credit applications submitted by the consumer. In some cases they ask for all applications for a given month. In others, they have asked for the applications of 1-5 consumers by name. They do not indicate they are acting on any complaint, only performing an audit. They want to know that you have the proper documentation for the report requests you submit.

What about online applications? Our clients have submitted the online applications they printed at the time it was submitted. As long as your online application meets a few requirements, they are acceptable. The address of the pages that both retrieve and handle the application form must start with https://. There should be a statement the consumer must agree to in order to submit the form that says they give permission to check credit, the information given in the application is true and accurate, and the reason for the application is to obtain a car loan. Further more, it should also provide a copy of your Privacy Policy or Risked Based Pricing information.

We tell our clients to retrieve the online applications right away. First, print it on plain paper, and then delete it from our system entirely. This way it is impossible for this information to ever fall in the wrong hands and at the same time you have fulfilled your commitment to protect and defend the personal, private information of your customers. To prepare for these audits, you should then either keep a folder or at least a log of all the applications you run a credit report on detailing the last name of the applicant, the date run and the results of the application.

P2P can land you in hot H20. The FTC came down on a Georgia car dealership for failing to comply with Federal regulations to protect nonpublic personal information. How? The dealership’s network had Peer to Peer (P2P) software on it. This software allows for easy file sharing between the networks. Napster.com was a famous example of P2P. This site allowed for illegal music and movie downloads until it was shut down.

Chances are the owner(s) had no idea this was even installed on the network, unfortunately. Any employee with a little too much time and a desire for free music might have actually installed it, as that is the most common use for this software, At the same time, though, they may have also landed their boss in hot water!

This is said to be the first time the FTC has ever taken action against a car dealer for Gramm-Leach-Bliley Safegauards Rules violations. It is easy to be sure you don’t find yourself in the same predicament. First, check your computers, all of them, for this software. There are several ways to detect and remove this software. Contact VIADA or my office to get those instructions sent to you. Once you are sure your computers are free of the software, sit down with your entire staff and spell out what your computers are to be used for, whether or not any of them are allowed to install software for any reason, and even mention the consequences of installing any P2P programs like Limewire, KaZaa, Grokster or Blubster, well known P2P programs.

Save 20% on your Online Recertification! VIADA is giving all who sign up for the online Recertification course before December 31, 2012 a Sale Price of only $99! That includes the portion forwarded to the MVDB. The online course has been a huge success this year. We have had countless dealers grumble about it going in and praise us for it coming out. When you take it online you are able to view the six hour course at your leisure. Want to do it all at once, great! Only want to do a couple of chapters a night, that is fine, too! In December, those who will need to recertify by the middle of 2013 will receive their notice from the MVDB and be eligible to register at this discounted price. Do not delay, the course will always be available, but that price won’t be!

What is Google saying about you? We work hard to get our clients the most amount of exposure from search engines. Some times, we are not the only ones telling Google about your business. You should search for your business not just to be sure it is getting found but to also see what your customers see when they Google you. Google will accept reviews about your business, but no one tells you about them, you have to find them. If you find a negative review the worst thing you can do about it is nothing. First, address the issue, if you can. If they complained about the way the car runs and all it takes is a tune up, order the plugs and wires! If it is incorrect or erroneous, you can try to dispute it, but do so with a cool head. Online rants are funny to see and damaging to both parties. If all else fails, bury the bad with good. Get your happy customers to submit their positive reviews at the same site. Enough of the good will move the bad off the first page and make it less believable. A testimonial page on your own site is another good way to build a positive reputation.

Print is alive! Remember the old Trader magazines? A few years ago they closed them all down, sticking a fork in the print pubilcations for good, or so they thought. Turns out, car dealers across the country found a return on investment with those classifieds magazines and instead of one nationwide magazine, there are hundreds of them. All serve distinct market areas and are still full of dealers’ ads. The classifieds magazines survived by adapting. Not only can you advertise a handful of cars in print each week, but now you can also advertise ALL your cars in the magazine’s website. This gives you the best of both worlds! A list of Virginia Classifieds magazine sites that also happen to be VIADA members are:
www.DealersLot.com
www.VADealer.com
www.DealersLotInc.com