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WASHINGTON, D.C. — It looks like dealers have moved closer to winning the congressional battle and gaining exemption from the consumer protection agency, but some hitches appear to remain.

Apparently congressional leaders who are seeking to combine Senate and House legislation on financial reform agreed to exempt dealers, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

However, how the exemption will play out appears still in question. Apparently, Senate leaders proposed that dealers would have to adhere to truth-in-lending rules provided by the new oversight unless the federal government decides to override this. The Federal Trade Commission would also have the ability to go after dealers' deceptive trade practices under the new proposal as well.

The National Automobile Dealers Association issued a statement yesterday saying, "The Senate counteroffer would grant the FTC sweeping authority to prohibit ‘unfair' acts or practices without Magnuson-Moss regulatory safeguards. Since the term ‘unfair' is subjective, this new authority is in reality an open-ended grant of power for the FTC to change or outlaw any business practice related to automotive retailing by regulatory ‘rocket-docket.'"

"The FTC previously had this authority until a Democratic Congress repealed it in 1980 because of numerous instances of regulatory overreach by the FTC. This sweeping potential change would give the FTC, under simple rulemaking authority, near unfettered power over dealers. For example, the FTC could use its new power to eliminate any compensation dealers receive when they facilitate auto loans for consumers, thereby threatening accessible and affordable credit that millions of Americans rely on to meet their transportation needs," said David Regan, of NADA, who wrote the letter.

The association went on to stress, "The Senate counteroffer is being introduced for the first time at the eleventh hour and has undergone none of the scrutiny or rigor conducted on the Brownback language."

NADA is urging dealers to contact Congressional members to oppose the modifications. For a full list of contact information visit http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/nadah2/downloads/SenateConferees.pdf.

"We're urging dealers and dealership employees to contact their members of Congress immediately and have them ask the conferees to support the House's auto dealer language to the financial reform bill," said Regan in a statement out today.

"All conferees should accept the House offer," he continued. "The Senate counteroffer runs against the stated position of a majority in both the House and Senate, while the House offer is a carefully and narrowly crafted exclusion that protects consumers while keeping auto credit accessible and affordable."

NADA says a vote could occur as early as this afternoon.

Meanwhile, as dealers continue to seek complete exemption, those that have related finance companies, such as buy-here, pay-here dealers, remain in the dark as to how the new protection agency will impact them.

The exemption is only geared for dealers who facilitate financing, those that have in-house finance companies are a different matter.