Buying a car means you will have to fork over a certain – SIGNIFICANT – amount of money either right away (if you are buying outright) or through financing or leasing somewhere down the line. Those are the car financing options in Ontario, Canada and they can be implemented for both new and used vehicles you wish to purchase. Moreover, there are also several ways of financing used vehicles in Canada – through a bank or the dealership where you’re buying the vehicle. Each option has its own pros and cons depending on the size of your income, credit score, savings, etc. With that many options, there are always those who are looking to stiff the customers by offering quick, but unfavorable options – for the customer, of course. That is why in the state of Ontario all vehicle sales are regulated under the Motor Vehicles Dealers Act which is enforced by OMVIC or the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council. In case you are unclear on what OMVIC is and how buying a vehicle from an OMVIC-certified dealer keeps you safe from shady deals, read on!
The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council licenses and regulates motor vehicle dealers in Ontario and administers the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) on behalf of the Minister of Consumer Services. Their goal is to maintain a fair, safe and informed marketplace by ensuring registration of dealers and salespeople, inspecting dealerships, maintaining a complaint line for consumers, conducting investigations and enforcing the Act and its associated rules and regulations. Registration with OMVIC is mandatory for Ontario’s motor vehicle dealers and salespersons.
OMVIC was created on January 7th, 1997 – the first regulated business sector to move to self-management. A new MVDA became law in Ontario on January 1st, 2010 and brought numerous changes to the way vehicle dealers are required to operate. What once was “a grey area”, now is regulated by means of clear requirements for advertising, pricing, vehicle disclosure, contracts and consumer remedies.
OMVIC’s objectives are very clear:
- Consumer protection (pursuit of those who would prey on an unwary public),
- Increased consumer confidence (compliance activities and complaint handling),
- Consumer awareness (dissemination of information concerning consumer rights via public information and awareness programs),
- Dealer professionalism (certification programs for new dealers and salespersons),
- Increased accountability (administration of a Code of Ethics, Standards of Business Practice and an open disciplinary process).
Moreover, OMVIC is structured around 4 areas of service with the aim of protecting the public interest:
The registration process includes careful screening of all applicants. In order to be registered, all applicants must meet the requirements stipulated in the MVDA. Registrations are valid for a limited time and renewals are conditional on registrants having operated with honesty, integrity, financial responsibility and in accordance with law.
2) Inspections, investigations and prosecutions
Inspections are conducted to examine business locations and to verify that books and records are properly maintained. Investigations are launched in situations where non-compliance is suspected and prosecutions may occur as a result.
3) Complaint handling
OMVIC handles disputes between consumers and dealers or between dealers themselves. The goal is to assist the parties involved to achieve a negotiated solution in order to avoid recourse to the courts.
4) Public awareness and professional standards
OMVIC promotes dealer education programs as a means of enhancing professionalism in the motor vehicle industry. In addition, OMVIC fosters public awareness and understanding of consumers’ rights and responsibilities.
For you as the buyer, OMVIC and the relevant laws in Canada and Ontario have ensured that you have basic rights that they protect:
1) All-In-Pricing in ads
Dealerships cannot make a vehicle that they advertise seem cheaper by failing to mention any other fees they charge aside from taxes. Also, the ads must mention if the vehicle was used as a daily rental, police cruiser, used to provide emergency services or used as a taxi or limousine.
2) Full disclosure
Dealerships must provide the buyer with all the information about the vehicle’s history and condition. If you are buying a used vehicle, ask for or purchase history report, CarProof and Collision Records and demand the car to be inspected by your trusted mechanic.
3) Cancellation rights
Buyers can cancel a purchasing contract within 90 days if the dealership does not fully disclose information on the vehicle. Not only that, but you can do the same if any information is inaccurate:
- Make, model and year,
- Odometer reading (or a statement that distance traveled is not available),
- Whether the vehicle has been “branded” by the Ministry of Transportation as salvage, rebuilt or irreparable,
- Accurate details of past use (e.g., if the vehicle was used as a taxi, limousine, rental car, police or emergency vehicle).
4) Compensation fund
Buyers who lose money as a result of a trade with a registered OMVIC dealer have access to the Compensation Fund and financial assistance provided they have a valid claim for a vehicle transaction against an OMVIC-registered dealer. Consumers who are eligible for compensation may qualify for up to $45,000 per vehicle transaction. In order to qualify, they must meet one or more of the eligibility criteria with the claim being submitted within 2 years.