Posted: 03/10/2015, 03:56pm | Sun-Times Editorial Board
On the face of it, government has no business telling a private business what days it can open for business.
Even if the business wants government to do just that.
That’s the peculiar situation Illinois finds itself in with respect to auto dealerships, which are prohibited by law from doing business on Sundays. The dealers by and large love the law, which gives them a day off in a highly competitive industry in which they otherwise might never close their doors. When one dealership is open for business, the rest feel they must be open, too.
But now state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, wants to end the state’s 33-year-old ban on Sunday car sales, saying it runs counter to basic free market philosophy, and we have to agree. We’re all for auto sales associates — and all the rest of us working stiffs — getting Sundays off, but such decisions should be made by the dealerships and their employees, not by government. Let the market sort it out.
Dealers who prefer the status quo argue that opening on Sundays would make it tougher for them to hire the most capable employees, threaten all employees with burnout, and increase overall costs. If somebody has decided to buy a car, they say, he or she can conveniently do so the other six days of the week — dealerships open early and close late — so total sales won’t increase. And, they say, getting financing can be difficult on Sundays when banks are closed.
But Oberweis, who is pushing a bill on this in Springfield, makes the common-sense argument that customers, especially in this 24/7 world, would appreciate Sunday hours. Dealers simply would have to schedule employee hours sensibly, as all other businesses do. And in the 34 states where dealerships are open on Sunday, banks have made accommodations that allow for quick financing.
Oberweis has the Federal Trade Commission on his side.
“Repealing the Sunday sales ban would ensure that the competitive process, not legislative directive, determines auto dealers’ hours of operation and the availability of other related services,” a letter from FTC staff to Oberweis, dated March 26, 2014, states. “The current law makes it more difficult for Illinois consumers to comparison shop and raises their search costs, which may lead to higher prices, less favorable terms of sale and lease, reduced output of sales and service, and a market that is unresponsive to consumer preferences.”
If dealerships want to stay closed on Sundays, nobody is stopping them. If they want to open, government should not stop them.