SPRINGFIELD, -- Illinois' long-standing ban on Sunday automobile sales isn't good for competition and can be harmful to the marketplace, according to federal regulatory officials.
Staff at the Federal Trade Commission said the state's prohibition on Sunday automobile sales also makes it more difficult for drivers to shop around for the best deal.
The agency issued the statement late last week in response to a measure introduced by state Sen. Jim Oberweis, who wants to repeal the law that went into effect in 1983. Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican who's pushing to lift the ban, asked the FTC to weigh in.
"Sunday closings impair competition and harm consumers by making it more difficult for consumers to search for the vehicle that best meets their needs and the dealer who offers their desired car at the lowest price and best terms of sale," the agency said in a seven-page letter to Oberweis that was dated March 26.
Violators can face a $1,500 fine.
The ban is still supported by many car sellers, who said it cuts overhead, levels the playing field and gives employees a day off.
Larry Doll, legal counsel for the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, told The (Springfield) State Journal-Register that a single-day closure doesn't affect a sale.
"A vehicle isn't an impulse buy, so there's a lot of planning that goes into that ahead of time," Doll said. "I don't think that extra day is going to have an impact."
But not everyone in the industry supports the ban.
Steve James owns Elite Auto Sales in Herrin and said he should be able to sell cars on Sundays.
"Motorcycle dealers can be open on Sunday, why not the automobile industry?" he told WSIL-TV. "It does need to be an option. Let the dealership make the decision."
For his part, Oberweis said he doesn't think the state should regulate when a business can be open.
"We need to rethink the weak argument that car dealers should be closed Sundays to give their employees a day off and keep costs down," he said. "Plenty of other employers and stores set their hours -- with full consideration of what their competition is doing -- without input from the government."
An effort to repeal the ban was defeated in a state Senate committee in 1987.