The embarrassing reputation of car salesmen is persistent. And it is not the practices of the company HGregoire, uncovered by investigations by the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), that will restore the image of this industry.
Posted at 6:30am
“HGregoire is the freedom to choose with confidence,” promises the Quebec used-car giant’s website.
That’s not exactly what the AMF found out by collecting customer testimonials.
Instead, she accuses HGregoire of “undue pressure” and “fraudulent tactics” to get consumers to buy insurance. In some cases, warranties have allegedly been sold with no explanation of their nature. And that even without the knowledge of the customers. It’s so cheeky!
In mid-July, 31 complaints of abuse were sent to HGregoire and employees for a range of behaviors that break the law Law on Distribution of Financial Products and Services. The documents are now public. Each relates to a customer’s experience.
In total, the Saint-Eustache company received fines totaling $314,850, including fees and customary duties. This is the highest sum ever imposed on a dealership by the AMF.
HGregoire pleaded not guilty. A judge of the Quebec court must therefore decide.
In 29 out of 31 cases, the AMF demands penalties that are well above the statutory minimum. His evidence: “Number of victims”, “Breach of trust and manipulation”, “Greed (motivation)”, “Intention to commit a crime”, “Market damage”, “Number of insurance covers sold to the same”. Person”.
The words hit hard.
No manager at HGregoire would give me an interview. In a written statement, the dealer assured that he “takes all allegations of this kind very seriously”. He adds, “The practices cited in the indictments are contrary to the company’s philosophy.”
For Martine Quirion, there is no doubt that HGregoire will have to pay the $17,520 criminal complaint resulting from her testimony.
“When the AMF called me and I went through my contract, I realized I had been paying for life insurance for two years! She said to me. That $2,600 bill hidden in his payments “is the straw that broke the camel’s camel.” Because, moreover, his Sante Fe 2013 is “a lemon” that ended up in the garage a month after purchase and many times since. Fortunately, she was able to put an end to this policy by calling the Industrial Alliance.
HGregoire also sold Francesca a life and disability insurance policy one night in January without telling her. I was tired. I trusted myself by telling myself it was HGregoire. I was a nanny. I signed without looking. I’m ashamed. Price: $1,880 for a $7,800 Kia Rio.
The next morning at 9am the lady went back to see the sales team. We explained to him that insurance was mandatory, otherwise the loan would not come about. She didn’t believe him given his financial situation. And besides, she already had that kind of insurance at work. After all, it was an employee who secretly came to his aid. He suggested that she call the insurer in Alberta to cancel everything. The check she received kept her from forgetting her bad experience.
Francesca was right, life, health and job loss insurance aren’t often required by lenders. And if this is the case, one can look around by contacting a broker. This means that significantly better conditions can be achieved, as an AMF study shows, because the employees of the concessionaires collect hefty commissions.
It’s simple: dealers cannot force a customer to take out the insurance they offer.
The AMF ensures that since 2009 it does everything it can to clean up the automotive industry by multiplying opinions and regulations. “If we can sanction practices to stop them, we will,” vowed Jean-François Fortin, director general for market control. Of course, we cannot put all companies on the same boat, we insist on that. But there is still a long way to go.
In addition, the AMF advises consumers to always be “alert” and “ask questions.” The problem is that insurance and extended warranties are complex products that intimidate many. So you have to know what to look out for, even when buying a new car.
Take the Volkswagen customer I told you about in July. After driving a few kilometers in her new car, she realized that it was not equipped with all the options provided for in the contract. No “emergency braking assistant” or “blind spot detection with traffic warning”. How could she have known to ask the seller if her new Taos would have all the parts?
Of course, being an informed consumer is important. But what a burden to always be on guard…
Here, as elsewhere in the world, we joke and caricature car salesmen. But it’s clear that they, too, sometimes laugh at consumers.