Manitoba dealerships make amends with customers after CBC investigation

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WINNIPEG, MAN. – CBC is reporting that 66 customers have received settlements or refunds from 27 dealerships after it was found that numerous Manitoba stores were charging extra fees on vehicle purchases despite provincial laws that demand all-in advertised pricing.

The province’s Consumer Protection Office (CPO) told the news agency it had received 90 complaints from shoppers following the September investigation about additional fees.

The story made headlines after CBC’s I-Team secretly shopped 10 new car dealerships in the Winnipeg area. The investigation found that out of 10 stores – six Birchwood Automotive Group stores, three Gauthier Automotive Group locations and two Vickar Dealer Group stores – salespeople at seven added extra fees to advertised prices despite it being forbidden under Manitoba’s consumer protection legislation.

The fees were charged despite the fact Motor Vehicle Advertising and Information Disclosure legislation took effect June 1, 2015. Among other things, the legislation calls for advertised prices:

• to be the total price for the vehicle and include all additional charges (except for the retail sales tax and the federal goods and services tax).

• not be calculated based on the inclusion of any special deduction or circumstance.

• must not show the amount and timing of the payments for a vehicle, in a manner that is more prominent that the total price for the vehicle.

The CBC exposé revealed that most shoppers were told the fees were not optional.

Of the 10 stores shopped, four Birchwood and three Gauthier salespeople added extra fees with one total reaching as high as $1,799, CBC reported.

Salespeople at both Vickar locations – Vickar Nissan and Vickar Chevrolet – followed the law and did not charge any additional fees.

Response to the story was swift from Birchwood Automotive Group president Steve Chipman, who immediately announced all of Birchwood’s 135 salespeople and their managers would complete training and re-education to ensure compliance.

The Manitoba Motor Dealers’ Association took it equally seriously and said it would develop an education session for dealers and a separate course for salespeople. The training forums, to be created in partnership with the CPO, would drill down exactly what is permitted under the Motor Vehicle Advertising and Information Disclosure legislation.

“What has come to light is that it’s more than just the all-in pricing; there’s a bunch of different regulations that have been on the books and how they all play in to one another is where real confusion is happening,” MMDA executive director Geoff Sine told Canadian AutoWorld at the time.

“The best way is to have a teachable course of different scenarios rather than just reading something on a government website.”

The CPO told CBC none of the dealerships have been fined and that the names of the dealerships that have settled with customers or offered refunds will not be made public.

– with files from the CBC