When to Use a Spanish Buyer's Guide

According to the Federal Trade Commission “If you conduct a used car transaction in Spanish, you must post a Spanish language Buyers Guide on the vehicle before you display or offer it for sale.”

But what is a Spanish transaction and how would it impact my dealership?  One Texas dealership found out the hard way.  The dealership ran full-page Spanish-language ads in the local paper claiming that consumers could purchase a vehicle at certain favorable terms. While the favorable terms were prominently stated in Spanish, the material limitations were provided only in English….in fine-print at the bottom of the ads. This resulted in a material complaint by the FTC.

A little bit Spanish.  A little bit English.  The FTC's ruling did not make specific interpretation of what “conduct” in Spanish will trigger full Spanish translations.  Look at the language of key terms and conditions.  If a sales consultant greets a customer in Spanish but communicates throughout the remainder of the transaction in English, would likely only require an English buyer's guide.  Alternatively, if any element of the transaction was communicated in Spanish, that would likely trigger the Buyers Guide in Spanish.  It would be prudent in Texas to have the “as-is” disclosure in Spanish if you routinely advertise or conduct car transactions in Spanish. Attached below:

While there is no specific test, trigger, or bright line per se for Spanish language guides, applicable laws support using English FTC disclosures unless is it clear that the buyer is unable to comprehend anything except Spanish.  Greetings and other general small talk in Spanish should not trigger the alternate form.  Look at the overall transaction.  If specific terms, payments, interest, warranty, etc “were negotiated in Spanish” then use the Spanish form. The rule is silent as to “a little Spanish” or “mostly in Spanish.” If your salesperson chats up the customer in Spanish and also discusses any component of the vehicle in Spanish, you may want to provide the Spanish form just in case.  In the alternative, you could advise salespeople to negotiate vehicle terms only in English unless it is clear there is little or no understanding of the English language.  Conversely this rule and related reasoning does not apply to Portuguese, Chinese, French, or German speakers, etc.

Traditional retail cash sales will usually have less scrutiny on the contract forms for language issues and related disclosures except in misrepresentation issues.  If it is a newer vehicle without any repair or maintenance issues, then there is likely very little misrepresentation liability with Spanish v English.  In those scenarios, the primary remaining legal issues would be the existence of a warranty, price, and advertising.
Example of possible legal liability: the salesperson claims they told the Spanish speaker about a vehicle defect, but something gets lost in translation or was not disclosed (a safety defect, engine light, prior work / repairs).  Any flashed error codes, especially airbags, can be problematic as there is an electronic trail.


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