Consumer Fraud and Car Dealerships

Car Dealer Tricks – Etch Products
It is a common practice for car dealerships in the State of New Jersey to sell a product known as “etch.” Frequently, this product is preprinted on a buyer’s order or a standard form used by the dealership as part of selling a new or used vehicle. Although the dealership might frequently claim that the purchase of this item is optional, it appears as though it is not optional because it is preprinted on a buyer’s order and it is applied to all the vehicles prior to the time of sale. As a practical matter, I have litigated numerous cases where the allegation was that a representative of the dealership explained to the customer that the purchase of this product was mandatory or part of the transaction. Frequently, this is contradicted by written statements contained in the various documentation prepared by the dealership and signed by the consumer, so they feel they are “protected”.
Quite simply, the purchase of etch is neither required nor usually a good idea. The basic concept behind this etch product is that it somehow deters thieves from stealing a car once this particular identification is etched on the windshield. I have yet to see some type of study that etchings on the vehicle reduce the theft rate on the vehicle. Nonetheless, the benefit paid by the etch is not sufficient to support the amount of money or the price of the product. Usually, this product costs consumers from $200 to $500 and must be compared against the deductible of auto insurance. As an example, if you have a deductible with $500 on an auto and the vehicle is stolen or totaled, it is likely that this could be the maximum amount which would be received by the consumer. So, in essence, the consumer is paying $200 to $500 for a $500 benefit. The risk does not justify the price paid for the product. It is not uncommon that the etch product is sold in conjunction with a gap product which must be compared with the policy of automobile insurance sold with the vehicle. Nonetheless, it is overpriced for the risk assumed. Moreover, the requirements to apply for this benefit are overwhelming. There are numerous requirements, including the supplying of police report, notification within 30 days, and documentation from the insurance company, and all sorts of other extras that are required to process this claim.