ONTARIO’S VEHICLE SALES REGULATOR
By Carey Smith
By Carey Smith
983 words – MR
ONTARIO’S VEHICLE SALES REGULATOR
Many of us have “relationships” with our cars. We heap untold attention (and money) upon the curved glass and sculptured metal that is the object of our affection; we’re truly passionate. Others, however, are simply indifferent; it’s a means of transportation not linked in any way to one’s psyche or self-identity.
Whether aficionado or just a daily commuter, one emotion many share is nervousness, perhaps even dread, when it’s time to buy that new ride or the new love of their life. Here’s a few tips to ensure that new car/owner relationship starts on the right road.
Assuming a consumer knows what vehicle they want to buy, the next question to consider is whether to buy from a private seller or dealer?
Buying privately is, of course, not without its risks. Ontario has vigorous consumer protection laws governing car purchases but these regulations only apply to dealers. If something goes wrong in a private sale, the consumer is on their own so anyone choosing to go this route needs to get educated.
Learn how to spot a curbsider (an illegal dealer of cars); in Ontario prospective buyers can ask to see the seller’s ID and make sure the car is actually registered to them; if it’s not, they should not listen to excuses – but run away – fast!
Prospective buyers in Ontario should ask to see the Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) from the Ministry of Transportation (MTO). It lists previous owners and odometer readings and provides information about registered liens on a vehicle. The seller is supposed to provide the UVIP by law. Prospective buyers should read it carefully, making sure it hasn’t been altered and no pages are missing.
Many private sellers fail to disclose, or simply don’t know about, previous accidents or damage, which will be shown in vehicle history report like “CarProof” or “Carfax.” Consumers should also have a trusted mechanic inspect the vehicle. If the seller won’t allow it, or is in a hurry, that’s their signal to hurry away.
Purchasing from a registered dealer in Ontario is without a doubt the safest way to buy. All dealers are governed by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), the industry regulator, and must abide by the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, Consumer Protection Act and Sale of Goods Act.
OMVIC administers a compensation fund for eligible consumers who have sustained certain losses from dealers. OMVIC also has a stringent code of ethics. These regulations require dealers provide customers with full disclosure of the past-use, history and condition of vehicles; this includes disclosing if a vehicle was involved in a collision or any other fact the consumer believes is material.
Dealers who breach any of these regulations can face serious penalties including fines, loss of licence or even jail time. OMVIC’s web site (omvic.on.ca) provides details of dealers convicted or disciplined for breaching the acts or code of ethics. Fortunately, these dealers are the minority – most provide exceptional service and products in an effort to build trust and a lasting relationship with the customer.
Even buying from a dealer requires consumers to educate themselves. They should know Ontario law requires dealers provide all-in price advertising. Dealers cannot add additional fees, other than HST or licensing, above the advertised price – and yes – signs on the vehicle itself are considered advertisements. Should a dealer try to add fees for products or services in excess of the advertised price, prospective buyers should not sign anything, leave and report the dealer to OMVIC.
Recently, some consumers have complained that dealers added fees for products/services the dealer had pre-installed on the vehicle, such as anti-theft products or nitrogen filled tires, claiming these were ‘mandatory’ fees.
“The only mandatory charge as required by regulation or law is HST,” according to OMVIC Director of Investigations Carey Smith.
“Dealers may also seek reimbursement for the cost of licensing the vehicle on the purchaser’s behalf. If a dealer claims a pre-installed product is mandatory and the consumer doesn’t find it has value and doesn’t want it, tell the dealer. If the dealer refuses to remove the charge or adjust the price, the consumer should walk away and shop elsewhere, but do so before signing a contract. There is no such thing as a cooling off period for car contracts.”
Dealers who try charging a consumer for pre-installed products/services after they have negotiated a price could be breaching “the requirement to conduct business with honesty and integrity, as set out in the MVDA and code of ethics,” added Smith.
Savvy car shoppers can prevent this from occurring. When consumers enter into negotiations to reduce the price of a vehicle, they should make it clear at that time they are negotiating the final drive-away price and won’t consider any additional charges other than HST and licensing, unless it’s for an optional product or service the consumer agrees to purchase.
Whether shopping for a new sexy set of wheels privately or a new daily commuter car, buyers should get to know their rights. Don’t get emotional, get informed.
OMVIC is a member of the Criminal Intelligence Service of Ontario. Through a unique partnership, it provides training in automotive crime by delivering the Specialized Vehicle Theft Investigation Techniques Course at the Canadian Police College.
OMVIC administers and enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. It maintains a fair and informed vehicle marketplace by regulating dealers and salespersons, regularly inspecting Ontario’s 8,000 dealerships and 25,000 salespeople, maintaining a complaint line for consumers and conducting investigations and prosecutions of industry misconduct and illegal sales.
These investigations are carried-out by OMVIC’s investigations division, which is staffed entirely by former police officers. The investigations division is also mandated to support all levels of law enforcement by providing advice or assisting with their investigations.