Being an auto dealer can be complicated, and as the years go by, it just gets more and more complicated. Of course, there is the sales side and the ever-expanding number of competitors, but there are also the ever-increasing number of laws that regulate sales. This is why many dealers find themselves in court, and one such claim that some customers may make is that the dealer violated the “Single Document Rule” under the Automobile Sales Finance Act.
The California Automobile Sales Finance Act, also known as AFSA, was passed to fight hidden and excessive finance charges in auto-sales contracts. As such, it mandated that dealers disclose all charges and fees in these contracts. And, part of that disclosure requirement was the Single Document Rule in Civil Code, Section 2981.9, which mandates that these contracts “shall contain in a single document all of the agreements of the buyer and seller with respect to the total cost and the terms of payment for the motor vehicle.”
Does that mean sales contracts must be a really long single sheet of paper?
In the past, yes. Before more recent guidance, automobile sales contracts had to be about 24 inches long (printed on both sides), which was the only way to contain the required provisions in their minimum required font sizes. Of course, this is not a standardized document size and it is incompatible with standard office software and printers. This led to unintended delays and additional expenses to dealers, as well as customers who needed to make copies or transmit these documents.
The streamlined solution
The solution to this problem was that many dealers began thinking of a single document not as a single piece of paper, but also multiple pages stapled together and listed together. These appropriately integrated documents included sequential page numbering that presents the page numbers as, “1 of 4,” “2 of 4,” and so forth. This was accepted by the California Attorney General in 2009 because under the prevailing interpretations of a single document, all agreements need not be contained on a single piece of paper. Instead, a single document could be created by physically attaching multiple pages together and then citing these pages on the face of the contract and use inclusive sequential page numbering (e.g., “1 of 4,” “2 of 4,” etc.).
For Irvine, California, and Orange County auto dealerships generally, this is an important distinction. And, it may be one that a customer tries to use to sue a dealership or rescind a contract.