Who is Filling In the Customer’s Credit Application?

In a recent story, Automotive News reported on an informal online survey of F&I managers in which 29% responded that salespeople or sales managers fill in credit applications for customers at their stores. They’re just trying to help the customers fill them out the right way.  What could go wrong?  Plenty.

What happens if a customer claims that the income or time on the job shown on the application does not reflect the truth?  How can that come up, you ask?  How about a customer’s lawsuit over a deal that was rescinded when the customer’s financing was denied because his income could not be verified? Or how about a claim against the dealership arising from a repossession where the customer claims that he could not afford the vehicle because his income on the credit application was falsified by the salesperson?  When matters like this become issues in litigation, it is easy for the customer to claim that he knows nothing about what was entered on the credit application if it is not in his handwriting.  He will claim that the amount of income, the time on the job, and any of several other important facts were made up by the salesperson.  Sure, he signed the application, but it was just another in an endless line of documents he was told to sign as part of his deal.  So where does your dealership stand if this happens?

Certainly, dealers want credit applications to be legible.  They want salespeople to work with customers so that all of the appropriate information can be developed.  They want salespeople to work with customers so that all of the required information is filled in.

But a salesperson who is filling in the credit application for the customer makes it easy for the customer to claim that the salesperson made up information.

There is an answer.  Have all information on the credit application filled in by the customer.   Have a salesperson, a sales manager, or an F&I person work with the customer to develop all the pertinent information.  Then have the customer sign the application, and initial the income and time on the job.  The information on the credit application may be transferred into an electronic screen anyway.  Even when it is not, and if the information is not legible, it can be handwritten again in a legible form and signed by the customer, with the customer’s original handwritten application attached to the legible application.

Of course, a customer can always claim that he wrote what he was told to write by a salesperson.  But if it is the customer’s handwriting throughout the application, that will be a tough sale to a jury.  Requiring a customer to fill in his own credit application disarms a customer who wants to claim that he knew nothing about what was filled in and simply signed as told by the salesperson.