It’s almost buyer beware when purchasing a new vehicle in Canada

While there are no ‘lemon laws’ in Canada, there are measures in place to help if you think you may have purchased a defective vehicle.”
While there are no ‘lemon laws’ in Canada, there are measures in place to help if you think you may have purchased a defective vehicle.”

When you go shopping to make your own lemonade, it’s a no-brainer to buy lemons, but the opposite is true when you want to buy a car.

Lemons are cars that don’t seem to ever perform up to standards, no matter how many times you take it back to the dealer. But what can a Canadian consumer do to get that lemon properly dealt with?

For starters, the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP) might be the best option, according to Wheels.ca.

“CAMVAP arbitrators have the authority to order the manufacturer to buy back the vehicle, repair it at the manufacturer’s expense, reimburse for repairs already completed, and pay related expenses such as towing, accommodations, rental cars and more,” writes Mark Toljagic.

Many consumers are unaware of the manufacturer-sponsored arbitration organization that helps consumers recover from a bad purchase. Car makers and consumers surrender their rights to go to court, in exchange for arbitration.

But are there any laws with teeth that consumers can rely upon?

“While there are no ‘lemon laws’ in Canada, there are measures in place to help if you think you may have purchased a defective vehicle,” according to the federal Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA).

The site advises consumers to contact your local provincial or territorial consumer protection departments.

The Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) “enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, 2002 on behalf of the Ontario government through the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Our mandate is to maintain a fair and informed marketplace in Ontario,” according to its website.

OMVIC’s 2017 statistics showed 341 charges laid against 48 entities, and it “negotiated return of $881,568 to consumers via conciliation efforts.”

And for those in B.C. and Alberta, similar organizations exist. Alberta has the “Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council, while British Columbia has the Motor Vehicle Sales Authority. These are funded by consumers. Five bucks from each purchase stakes the Council which investigates dealer practices, issues warnings and hands out fines, or even suspends dealers,” writes Lorraine Sommerfeld on Driving.ca.

And Alberta is expected to soon enact a new law that “will help consumers feel more confident when buying a car or getting it fixed,” said Minister of Service Alberta Brian Malkinson during a press conference.

The regulations call for dealers to provide consumers with complete car histories — so they can better discover if the car has been in an accident — and it promises up to $100,000 in penalties for those who flout the law. The province’s regulator, AMVIC, will become a public agency, giving it more teeth, said Malkinson.

But B.C. drivers might find that once they drive the car off the lot, it’s theirs to keep, regardless of the condition.

“There is no law that gives consumers the right to easily return a vehicle. According to its website, you may be able to return a vehicle if the dealership has an advertised or stated return policy, if the vehicle did not meet the minimum standards for a vehicle to be driven on the road at the time of purchase,” according to Consumer Protection BC. But if not, you might be stuck.

In Quebec, the Office de la protection du consommateur counsels consumers to stand up for their rights and demand the dealer fix problems promptly.

“If the vehicle you bought is defective or cannot serve its purpose, inform the merchant of the problem. They will need to: repair the vehicle or have it repaired without charge; exchange it; refund your money. You may also have suffered damages from using a defective product. If that is the case, the merchant may also have to compensate you.”

It seems like consumers would do well to assert their rights, document all the steps and even bring in an independent expert to inspect the vehicle.

While Canadians might not be as fortunate as Americans, who have various state-based lemon laws, there is some protection. But it just might take some extra homework on your part.

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