The Manitoba government has restarted its review of the province’s Business Practices Amendment Act. The most recent meeting took place in May. The process is consultative – all concerned parties meet to discuss the reforms. Canadian AutoWorld spoke to Nick Roberts, executive director of the Manitoba Used Car Dealers’ Association, to see what the association had to say about the proposed changes.
Canadian AutoWorld: Can you describe your concerns with the proposed changes?
Nick Roberts: I’m concerned about the process itself. The only car dealers at the table are the MUCDA and the Manitoba Dealers’ Association (new). Most participants have no knowledge of the retail business.
There are 14 participants. My concern is that the issues are complex and the process is too unwieldy. Everyone has their own opinion, yet the process is scheduled to wrap up in March. I don’t think the deadline will be met.
As we said in our brief, established dealers already comply with the rules of contract law and the statutory provisions.
All the proposed amendments will do is give the consumer a warm and fuzzy feeling that they are being protected. Yet our Consumer Protection Office is understaffed; it’s not a force to be reckoned with so more regulations will come into force with no enforcement.
Under the proposed legislative framework, curbsiders would entirely escape regulation.
The result will be nothing more than a form of consumer protection theatre.
CAW: Is there a move to the Ontario model of disclosure with the dealing disclosing the history of the vehicle, previous owners, damage, etc.?
NR: Yes. Here they’re calling it lemon laws. We can’t track the history of each vehicle. How could the dealer have the service history?
We have a vehicle history available to our members. It shows whether a vehicle was registered in Canada and whether it is a U.S. important or branded in Canada. But our reports are no different from the others: they all have a disclaimer that says the damage history is as complete as possible and if something comes up later, they are not responsible for it.
There is no comprehensive tracking system of lemons.
What if the dealer gets the history and it says no accidents and the dealer sells the car, then an accident gets reported and goes on the VIN a year later? Now, the owner goes to trade in the vehicle and what then? Will the selling dealer be responsible? That’s not fair. Dealers should only be responsible for what they know.
CAW: I understand the MUCDA is looking to widen the responsibility.
NR: Yes. Credit unions, captives, finance companies, OEMs don’t have to have a dealer license in Manitoba. So if GMAC sells a car to a dealer with no disclosure of damage and the dealer sells it to a consumer, who finds out there is $25,000-worth of damage on it, the dealer can’t go after GMAC because it’s exempt. We say that if you are in the business of selling cars, you better have a license.
The government also wants to protect consumers from everything, but at the end of the day, the consumer has to take responsibility for their actions.
CAW: Besides these, what recommendations is the MUCDA bringing to the table?
NR: Our association wants to see the end of pricing gimmicks. A car ad will quote a price of, say, $11,995 with an asterisk beside it that refers to some fine print that reads “the price reflects a $5,000 trade-in” or the “price includes a finance rebate of $1,000,” which means “finance the car with us and we will give you $1,000 off the regular price.”
Consumers don’t like this. They don’t read the fine print and they go to the dealer and found out what the ad means. They can walk away, but it’s an inconvenience.
We want the rule to apply to the manufacturers. If we have to play by these rules, they should too.
CAW: What’s the state of the Manitoba used-car market?
NR: The market here is not outstanding. It’s steady, though. Our biggest problem is the lack of product. Some dealers faded away because of the recession. The survivors are scrambling for product and that will worsen as leasing fades out. If we have more product, we could sell more.