AMVIC executive director removed following independent review


Dave Halliday

EDMONTON, ALTA. – The executive director of the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council will be replaced following an independent review of the council that oversees the province’s automotive industry.

John Bachinski is being removed from his position after the report was presented to the AMVIC board Dec. 5.

Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean told a news conference Dec. 6 that she accepts the 22 recommendations contained in an independent review by George Cuff. McLean had appointed Cuff in August 2016 to review the operations and governance of AMVIC as well as its mandate to protect consumers.

Cuff’s report highlights areas of progress and also makes recommendations for improvement, such as making the compensation fund work better for consumers, ensuring a balance between public and industry board appointees and improving internal management and governance.

“Alberta families need to know we have their backs when it comes to a major purchase like a car or truck,” McLean said.

“These recommendations will put AMVIC on the right track and ensure it is protecting Albertans. This is a big step forward in restoring faith in the industry and ensuring Albertans get what they pay for.”

AMVIC board chair Paul Williams said the organization would be working hard every day to earn the trust of Albertans.

“AMVIC has made a lot of improvements in recent months, but we know we still have work to do,” Williams said. “These recommendations will help us turn the page and restore confidence in the regulation of the auto industry.”

The recommendations are designed to refresh AMVIC with a focus on protecting Albertans who are buying or repairing motor vehicles, strengthening the public’s role in overseeing the auto industry by balancing public and industry representation on the AMVIC board and addressing ongoing challenges in the governance and management of AMVIC.

The change in representation on the board will shift it away from being tilted towards industry as it has been in the past.

Cuff, former mayor of Spruce Grove, said the need for AMVIC is just as strong today as when the organization was created in 1999. AMVIC regulates an industry with 7,000 licenced businesses and 10,000 licenced salespersons.

“The businesses involved are reported to impact the Alberta economy to the tune of $30 billion per annum,” Cuff said in the report.

The report notes that AMVIC is a relatively new organization “with an impressive list of accomplishments in its resume.” The fact that it had a number of challenges is not surprising given its varied objectives and audiences.

“The fact that it required a mandate refresh is apparent to the Government (on behalf of the public) and to the industry,” the report said.

However, the report points out that “regulation of any kind often runs the risk of naysayers (often those in the industry) based in part on the view that the good guys are being regulated whereas the bad guys are getting away with poor performance.”

The Motor Dealers Association of Alberta did not respond to a request for comment on the report and the recommended changes to AMVIC.

The organization’s compensation fund will be revised since there is $4 million in the fund, but just over $2,000 was paid out last year.

A combination of a lack of knowledge about the fund, red tape and logistical problems have led to few payouts.

Despite controversy, AMVIC has had some successes such as a case this summer, where the council not only ferreted out a southern Alberta curber and fined him $3,450, but also ordered him to pay $3,900 in restitution to the victim, a Lethbridge dad who bought a car for his daughter only to find out it had serious problems.

Describing the incident, Bachinski said “AMVIC was able to link a consumer complaint file with a curber that was already under investigation after being flagged through a sophisticated internet data mining tool AMVIC uses. The tool combs through online ads for red flags, including multiple ads posted to the same person or with the same contact information.”

AMVIC has cancelled the licences of dealers and one dealer who continued to sell cars in defiance of the order was later arrested. That case is still before the courts. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, 13 business licences and nine salesperson registrations were cancelled.
In 2015-16, there were 2,141 complaints filed with AMVIC, up slightly from 2,111 in the previous year. The top five issues include: contract issues, condition of vehicle, advertising, curbing and deposits.