car dealerships | Low paying customers get their arm twisted

Do you know the new trend in the automotive industry? Note: It is neither aesthetic nor mechanical. It’s more strategic. Dealers flatly refuse to sell vehicles at list price unless the customer agrees to buy something else at the same time.

Posted at 6:30am

This can be tire insurance, paint protection film, replacement value insurance, winter tires, wheel rim locks. Customers have also been billed for standard equipment.

That or nothing.

The Automobile Protection Association (APA) knows this strategy, which is not as marginal as one might think. As evidence, she receives complaints “almost every day now,” says her director George Iny, who speaks of “fraud” and “predatory behavior.”

Often these forced sales of very lucrative accessories and warranties are imposed on those who do not have a trade-in vehicle.

Sébastien was the first to let me know. After his car was stolen, he had to find another one quickly. But since he had no vehicle to sell, the Honda dealer told him bluntly that he was not a high-paying customer. He was therefore forced to add a series of accessories that added $4,000 to the bill. He felt trapped. With reason.

Even without a trade-in vehicle, Arthur Willett had a similar story at Toyota. He was offered two options: receive $800 worth of options or accept the sale converting to a lease. After expressing his preference for the original deal, which had been finalized months earlier, the sales manager left the room. He came back with a stack of files. “He told me that there were more than 50 people waiting for a Corolla Cross and that he would prefer another higher-paying customer. He picked up the bundle of files and put mine underneath. »

The seller met by Sébastien justified himself by saying that the order came from above. “He wanted to make me cry. He played the violin for me and told me that the dealers were not doing well financially. »


PHOTO ROBERT SKINNER, THE PRESS

George Iny, President of the Association for the Protection of Motorists (APA)

Don’t be softened. Because it’s exactly the opposite, argues George Iny.

The shortage of vehicles benefits dealers. They have been able to eliminate discounts, downsize staff and significantly reduce the cost of financing their inventory, one of their biggest expenses. On the other hand, times are actually tougher for sellers. But that’s no reason to hold customers hostage by disrespecting the contract or the law.

At Corporation of Quebec Automobile Dealers (CCAQ), CEO Robert Poëti agrees that you can’t force someone to buy something they don’t want. “It’s against the law. But he seemed to downplay the issue when I spoke to him. “If you don’t want something, you say no. It ends there. »

Theoretically, it’s true that you can always say no. But in real life, it’s not always easy when you know that saying “no” will have a number of consequences. Especially in times of scarcity.

If his car has been damaged or stolen, it may need to be replaced very quickly. If you’re waiting six months for your new car to be delivered, you don’t feel like starting the process all over again, knowing that prices (and interest rates) may have gone up in the meantime. A customer may be afraid of losing his deposit, he cannot resist the pressure of the seller, lark.

Therefore, the Consumer Protection Agency (OPC) must act faster and crack down with more dissuasive fines. It has the means as it issues (since 2016) permits for road vehicle dealers which it can also revoke. Also, five traders have been on the verge of losing their two years (see other text).

What can we as consumers do to protect ourselves? “Don’t buy a car!” suggests George Iny from the APA. The current market is skewed way too much in favor of retailers. Better to wait for things to get back to normal, which is what to expect in “a year or two”.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to wait. In this case, it is important to be aware of your rights and the law. We can go to the dealership with a witness who can help us with the negotiations if needed. If nothing helps, we’ll get our deposit back and go to the competitor. We also call the OPC to file a complaint when we witness an illegal practice.

At the price new vehicles cost, buying one should be a moment of excitement and happiness. No distrust and frustration. It’s decided I’ll use my old cunt to the bone.

Groupe Park Avenue forced to agree to comply with the law

The Groupe Park Avenue, with its 21 car dealerships one of the most important and most renowned car dealers in Quebec, had lost its sales license by a hair’s breadth. In order to continue its operations, the company has made a formal commitment to the Office of Consumer Protection (OPC) to comply with the law, I’ve been told.

The agreement was signed on August 17 by Norman E. Hébert, President and CEO of Groupe Park Avenue for 30 years and son of the founder.

He didn’t have much of a choice. Roughly speaking, he signed or lost his car dealership license.

The “suspension notice” was received by the company in April. Reason: Disregard of Consumer Protection Act (§ 224c) and the Decree on the application of codes of conduct to used car dealers.

The four-page document, which can be found on the OPC’s website if you search for it, gives you an idea of ​​the practices accused of Groupe Park Avenue. In fact, it contains “the list of things they have done and that they pledge not to do anymore,” summarizes OPC spokesman Charles Tanguay.

Thus, Groupe Park Avenue promises to comply with the ban on charging a higher price than the one announced. Customers were getting bills inflated with “documentation fees”, “administrative fees”, “file opening fees”, “audit fees” or fees because the customer did not want financing. Others also had to pay extra for transport and preparation or the “My Safety” option.

Similar allegations lead to class action lawsuits.

The Montreal-based company also commits to attaching the famous label containing all the important information to the sale or long-term rental of used vehicles.

The agreement was signed without “any admission or admission of wrongdoing”. His spokesman did not respond to my interview request.

Four more vendors pinned

Groupe Park Avenue, which sells 15 vehicle brands from Kia to Porsche to Jeep and Mazda, isn’t the only group nailed by the OPC after analyzing 700 sales deals in recent years.

Four other companies have received a two-year license suspension: Hyundai Drummondville, Chomedey Hyundai, Auto Durocher (Laval) and Autozoom.ca. They all signed a voluntary agreement to keep it.

Admit it’s still odd that companies with permits sign documents promising to… respect the law.

The OPC promises it will be “followed up” to ensure agreements are honored but refuses to say how it is doing to keep its strategy working. If the permits were not simply revoked, “the principle of graduated sanctions” would have to be respected, spokesman Charles Tanguay specified.

“Permits should be suspended”

But for George Iny, director of the Association for the Protection of Motorists (APA), it is clear that the OPC lacks the bite.

“The fines are too low and too late to address practices that bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars to merchants. With 1,000 vehicles a year, if I cheat $500 per car, that’s $500,000. And I got a $5,000 or $7,000 fine two years later. Dealer licenses should be suspended. »

Permits “are conditional, like a driver’s license,” George Iny continues. “It’s not a gift from the state that allows someone to cheat at will. That’s how some traders seem to interpret it. »

If used vehicle sellers have lost their license for resetting odometers, no new vehicle dealer has suffered the same fate since the OPC took responsibility for licenses (2016).

Looking at current industry practices, it is clear that repeated fines and prosecutions do not adequately deter abusive and illegal practices. This hurts both consumers and any merchants who abide by the rules.

The good news is that those looking for a vehicle can come to one of Groupe Park Avenue’s dealerships with greater confidence in their business practices. A promise is a promise!

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