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Non-English Language Transactions –- Legal And Contractual Requirements

“Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.”

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


As the people of our nation and state evolve to speak and conduct business in multiple languages, passing their words back and forth like a culturally diverse game of catch, it is becoming increasing typical that business transactions of all types, including vehicle sales, are being conducted in different languages. Illinois and federal consumer protection authorities have promulgated certain laws and regulations to ensure consumers are afforded the same protections notwithstanding the languages they speak. It is incumbent on dealers to understand their legal and contractual obligations regarding non-English vehicle transactions to ensure their compliance.


In Illinois, Section 2N of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/2N), provides that if a person conducts, in a language other than English, a retail transaction or negotiations related to a retail transaction that results in a written contract and the consumer uses an interpreter other than the retailer or an employee of the retailer in conducting the transaction or negotiations, the retailer must have the consumer and the interpreter sign the following two (2) forms:

Consumer Form:

I, ________________ (name of consumer), used ________________(name of interpreter) to act as my interpreter during this retail transaction or these negotiations. The obligations of the contract or other written agreement were explained to me in my native language by the interpreter. I understand the contract or other written agreement.

_______________________ (signature of consumer)

______________________ (relationship of interpreter to consumer)”

Interpreter Form:

I, ________________ (name of interpreter), acted as interpreter during this retail transaction or these negotiations. The obligations of the contract or other written agreement were explained to ________________(name of consumer) in the consumer's native language. I understand the contract or other written agreement.

_______________________(signature of interpreter)

______________________ (relationship of interpreter to consumer)”

Section 2N also prescribes a separate, specific form set forth below that must be used when the retailer or an employee of the retailer acted as the consumer's interpreter in conducting the transaction or negotiations. And, if a language that cannot be written is used in the retail transaction or in negotiations related to a retail transaction, then the below form shall be in the English language.

Retailer / Employee As Interpreter Form:

This retail transaction or these negotiations were conducted in ________________(language), which is my native language. I voluntarily choose to have the retailer act as my interpreter during the negotiations. The obligations of the contract or other written agreement were explained to me in my native language. I understand the contract or other written agreement.

_______________________ (signature of consumer)

_______________________ (signature of retailer)”


Noncompliance with Section 2N by automotive and other retailers is an unfair and deceptive business practice in violation of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Section 2N does not apply, however, to transactions made pursuant to a credit card issued to the buyer, whether that card is issued by the seller or by a third party. Another example of the impact of regulatory protections in non-English language retail vehicle transactions exists for used vehicle sales under the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Used Car Rule. The Rule requires dealers to affix a Buyers Guide window disclosure label to used vehicles offered for sale to a consumer and give the Buyers Guide to the buyer. The Buyers Guide is part of the contract of sale and overrides contrary provisions in the contract. The Rule further obligates dealers to furnish a Spanish language Buyers Guide with respect to transactions conducted in Spanish.


Dealers should proceed on the side of caution and provide the requisite Illinois form disclosures when negotiating a vehicle sale in a non-English language, even though the customer understands English. There have been judicial challenges raising these considerations in other states and the Illinois law is clear that the requirements apply when the retail transaction or negotiations related to the retail transaction resulting in a written sale contract are conducted in a language other than English. Any compliance questions regarding a dealer’s obligations in transactions or negotiations conducted in any language other than English, including without limitation, proper disclosures and contractual forms, should be directed to the dealership’s legal counsel. Dealers should also be certain to ensure their forms from various third party providers with whom they do business (e.g., lenders, software vendors, document suppliers) are compliant.

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