Buying a car: beware of unscrupulous dealers!

The car shortage leads to several dealers putting pressure on buyers to sell or overcharge. When faced with these scams, the Automotive Protection Association (APA) recommends that you delay your purchase as much as possible.

There are a growing number of cases where car sellers abuse their power over buyers to close deals or charge extra. Five car dealerships, including Groupe Park Avenue, which has 21 dealerships in Quebec, recently signed agreements with the Office of Consumer Protection (OPC), pledging to no longer impose sales or charge additional fees, in other words… the law!

In the agreement signed in August 2022, Groupe Park Avenue undertakes, in particular, not to indicate a sale price that does not include all costs and not to ask for a price higher than the indicated price. Despite the fact that the law says so, the process of buying from a dealer has become commonplace when it happens differently.

offensive practices

Several cases of additional spending have been identified in recent years. For example, if you buy a car for delivery in the fall, the seller may require you to buy four winter tires. This can apply to accessories such as carpet kits as well as new car options. However, these practices are illegal. The dealer must not induce the buyer to add options against his will or condition the sale on the addition of these options.

These cases are not unique. A class action lawsuit filed in January 2022 mentions a case in which about sixty customers were forced to pay hidden costs when buying a car. Combining three requests submitted in 2021, 220 dealers are accused of imposing illegal surcharges.

Potential buyers are also under pressure from sellers. A recently exposed method is to post an offer for a vehicle that has already been sold. A customer who wants details goes to the dealership, where the salesperson takes the opportunity to have him sign a contract for the sale of another car.

“The economic situation is currently creating an imbalance between supply and demand,” explains George Ini, director of the APA. The scarcity has given some power to vendors who are taking advantage of the situation. Unfortunately, these drifts are difficult to prevent.

The number of new vehicles sold in the second quarter of 2022 was 11.2% lower compared to the same quarter in 2021. The waiting time for getting a new car is getting longer, up to several years. Thus, the buyers who have fallen into the trap depend on the market.

According to the APA, the best defense is vigilance.

Prevent risks

APA’s first piece of advice is to delay the acquisition. Buyers who can are better off not buying now, according to George Eene. “Prices are high, lead times are long, and over the past year we have seen a deterioration in sales practices,” the expert explains.

If you are a victim of abuse, you can file a complaint. However, “it’s often hard to see results,” Ini laments. And dealers are doing it again. This applies in particular to Québec inc. Auto Durocher in Laval, which has seven official notices on the seller’s page on the OPC website.

In July 2021, the dealer signed a new voluntary undertaking that saved it from revoking its sales license. And this, despite the difficult history and concrete evidence. The same is true of Hyundai Drummondville, Chomedey Hyundai and, who, in agreement with OPC, have agreed to abide by the law despite numerous violations in their files. This leads some people to say that OPC lacks bite.

To find their way, APA offers its subscribers a service that lists trusted sellers, information verified by the association’s team. Even if it doesn’t reduce costs or reduce lead times, this link can provide some peace of mind on a procurement project.

Legal notices and agreements between OPC and dealers are available on the OPC website. On the main page, you must enter the name of the dealer in the “Ask about the dealer” field, ticking the general terms of use of the site. You then select the appropriate dealer from the list of results. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find an “Office Monitoring Activities” tab and a “Legal Notices Received” tab. This is a good way to check the reliability of the dealer before proceeding with the buying process.

>> Read also: HGregoire Sued for Illegal Actions and Buying a Car: Beware of Illegal Extra Spending


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