NSADA says consumers need more protection in used car deals

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Sharon Forward and Neilson Graham bought a 2009 Subaru Impreza from salesperson Darren Blumenthal at Great Buys, a used-car dealership in Lower Sackville, N.S. in September 2015. Graham paid $26,500.

When the car broke down, he returned it and complained that Blumenthal let the car sit for weeks before shipping it to a local Subaru dealer.

The Subaru dealer diagnosed the car’s malady as a complete engine failure. The car’s extended warranty covered $5,000. But Forward was on the hook for $10,000. Forward and Graham sued Great Buys for the money and won a judgment for $10,000. Great Buys is appealing, insisting that that Forward and Graham drove the car improperly.

There are other claims and judgments outstanding against the dealership and Blumenthal, who also faces a charge of fraud over $5,000.

Great Buys has an F rating with the BBO of Atlantic Canada.

When Forward and Nelson went public with their complaints to CBC News, John Sutherland, executive director of the Nova Scotia Dealers Association, told CBC News the association wants to see the regs tightened when it comes to used car dealers and their salespeople.

The regs are 27 years old. There is no licensing requirement for salespeople. CBC News also unearthed the record of another Lower Sackville used car salesperson with a criminal record for theft and possession of stolen property.

“Whether one licenses sales people or registers them; that would be one option. The other option is to consider the conduct of that individual when working for a dealer and tying that conduct to the dealership’s license,” said Sutherland.

He said the association is working with government to find solutions.

The province’s Department of Transportation handles the discipline process. Department rep Brian Taylor told the CBC most dealer cancellations and suspensions result from a failure to notify the department of a change of location or having no principle place of business.

Taylor told Canadian AutoWorld in an email that road worthiness of vehicles on the province’s roads was the priority.

The dealer license app calls for a reference letter – used car and truck dealers only. There are no background checks.

He said the “vast majority of used car dealers are honest operators; however, as in any business of any kind, there can be dishonest people for whom no amount of regulation would be a deterrent”

The province’s Dealers’ Licenses Regulations do give the Registrar of Motor Vehicles the power to suspend or revoke a license where the dealer’s vehicle sales transactions have been “marked by a practice of failure to perform contracts or by fraud or bad faith …  [or where the dealer] has demonstrated … untrustworthiness … has [a] record of past conduct … such that it would be in the public interest that the license not be renewed or that the license be suspended or revoked.”