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WV Auto & Truck Dealers file suit against Ford over document fees

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The West Virginia Automobile & Truck Dealers Association has filed suit in federal court to force Ford Motor Company to allow them to charge a $175 document fee for tax and titling services.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District, claims Ford told the association it could charge only $75-$100, depending on the plan selected by their customers, and said the car maker ordered them to "misrepresent" on the buyer's order that the additional fees had been paid by Ford "when in fact Ford had not and will not pay any additional fees."

WVATD says document fees compensate them for costs related to the services and assistance they provide to car and truck buyers.

"It is interesting to note that Ford builds into the 'customer price' ... an administrative fee of $275 for itself," the WVATD stated in its suit. "Ford provides no information as to what benefit the customers receives or costs Ford incurred to support this charge."

WVATD said the state had "investigated and determined that not only may dealers charge a doc fee for the services they provide consumers, but also that $175 is a reasonable fee for the services dealers are providing."

The only stipulation is that whatever fee is charged must be the same for each and every retail customer.

"In other words, the doc fee is not for a service that is being provided under the Sales and Service Agreement with Ford," they said. "Rather, it is a fee for services to consumers to assist consumers with requirements of the State of West Virginia for tax, tag titling, etc."

WVATD said Ford's restriction "subjects dealers to substantial damages rising to a level that could cost the dealer its license to do business in West Virginia."

"Ford's advice to dealers to simply subtract money from the 'commission' and misrepresent ... that additional fees have been paid for by Ford (when they have not) is arguably fraud," WVATD said.

"Not only is this practice likely consumer fraud, but it is also designed by Ford to reduce costs to For and/or it's plan buyers, at the dealer's expense," they said in the complaint.