The debate continues. Is the use of cameras for recording F&I transactions a good idea for auto dealerships?
That depends, says Terry Dortch, president of Automotive Compliance Consultants.
The advent of cameras in some F&I offices began in the early 2000s and since then a ping-pong argument has centered on whether it’s a good idea. And if a dealership does video-record F&I transactions, should it be done for regulatory compliance or training personnel?
Dortch, who notes the demand for the technology – one of his clients just installed F&I cameras – believes dealers buy these recording devices as a compliance tool. “I recommend my clients interested in cameras for use in the F&I office buy them as a training tool instead of for compliance,” he says.
The reason: people are people.
“We all make mistakes and do stupid things, and once those things are captured on a camera, an attorney can subpoena that video and use it as evidence against the individual and dealership,” Dortch says.
“And once regulators have a subpoena, even if that original incident proves innocent, just having that event recorded and having regulators interested can open up a can of worms that can put the dealership in a legal bind.”
How about using F&I videos similar to how sports teams shoot game videos for post-game reviews. Using the recordings for training purposes, in other words.
“Perhaps,” says Dortch. “The problem lies in this. We are talking about car people here; the human attention span is not conducive to doing much with those filmed details.
“Managers will look only occasionally at those tapes for that purpose.
“Second, they won’t review every recording to learn from them as they could.
“Third, they won’t delete the video, and there it sits so if ever subpoened for whatever reason the enforcement agencies will start looking at it for any infractions.”
He advises dealers only to use F&I cameras to observe and record personnel techniques and later for training. It will lead to “better-trained F&I staff who keep the dealership compliant.”
Dealerships should support this decision with a written policy that states to customers and employees the purpose of the videotaping. The policy should also state that all recorded files will be destroyed following their use for training only.
“Have F&I managers sign off on this policy, so they know what is expected of them regarding how these films are to be managed and protected – that for litigation purposes, videotaping is solely for training. Be sure the written policy states this.”
Regardless of the use, dealerships with surveillance cameras recording customer transactions must clearly notify customers.