Sunday service: Legalizing competition in Illinois’ auto industry

Sunday service: Legalizing competition in Illinois’ auto industry

The backward ban on Sunday car sales should be scrapped.

Cronyism in the Illinois auto industry extends beyond just the ridesharing debate. More than 30 years ago, big car dealerships successfully lobbied to ban their competitors from making Sunday car sales. Illinois’ buyers and dealers alike have long lost out because of it. But a new bill could finally end the madness.

A minority of states still have bans like these on the books, and the reasons why are obvious. The features of the Illinois law show it was conceived of by established dealers with the goal of limiting competition and consumer choice. SB 1780, proposed by state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, would repeal it.

The following are the five most absurd elements of the ban:

1. The law is blatantly anti-consumer and anti-competitive. Weekend days are prime shopping days. That’s when Illinoisans have the time to look around for a big-ticket item such as a car. Eliminating Sunday sales limits competition and shopping time. If dealers want a law restricting their work days, eliminating a weekday would be much less anti-consumer.

2. It was sold as a way to promote attendance at church, and to attract a better-caliber salesman.  Lobbyists who promoted banning Sunday sales said the law would attract a better-caliber salesman and a family-oriented man, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The unwritten implication is that the rest of us who sometimes work on Sundays are of a lower caliber and less family-oriented.

3. The law reduces work hours – and not just for dealers. Reducing dealership work hours is one of the reasons dealers wanted the law, which seems counterintuitive in a work-deprived state. More importantly, car purchasers are compelled to take time out of their workdays to do car shopping, because the law reduces weekend shopping time by 50 percent.

 In short – working consumers have to reduce their work hours so dealers can reduce their work hours. This is nonsense.

4. Dealerships were also given say over whether a competitor can open nearby. This additional nugget of cronyism comes from 815 ILCS 710/4(e)(8), and it allows an auto dealership to object to a manufacturer’s plans to establish another dealership of the same kind within 10 miles. The burden is then on the manufacturer to establish “good cause” for opening the new dealership.

 That’s like McDonald’s being given the power to decide whether a Wendy’s can open nearby. The two laws together make an obvious package of anti-consumer, anti-competitive cronyism.

5. Applying a similar law to other consumer industries shows its absurdity. What if retailers, pharmacies, gas stations and grocery stores were legally barred from serving consumers on Sundays in the name of reducing competition for the bigger players and limiting consumer freedom?

 The Sunday car-sale ban should be overturned by the General Assembly, as should be the law that empowers dealers to decide whether their competitors can open.

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