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Auto Know: Once you’ve signed, it’s a deal

You may have to compensate dealer to get out of a contract

Published October 19, 2012
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Q: If someone buys a car, agrees to monthly payments and makes a down payment, but then changes her mind two days later, how long does she have to cancel the deal? Is there any legislation or industry understanding that allows consumers to get out of a signed deal like this?

A: Mohamed Bouchama of Car Help Canada (www.carhelpcanada.com), a non-profit consumer group that helps members purchase new or used autos and resolve automaker disputes, replies:

In Ontario, there is no “cooling off” period if the lease or purchase agreement is signed at the dealership.

The dealership can only retain that part of the deposit that compensates them for the actual losses suffered from the breach of contract.

You may be able to negotiate a partial refund, especially if the amount of the deposit is less than the amount of the liquidating damages.

If the liquidating damages are higher than the amount of the deposit, the dealership has the right to ask for the difference.

Although in many cases the dealership will represent their losses as being equal to the full amount of the deposit, in fact those losses usually amount to less than the deposit.

If there are no legal grounds to set aside the contract, it is binding on both parties once they have signed even if the contract is signed outside the dealership.

Eric Lai adds:

Contracts are written legal agreements with obligations on both sides. In the event of a dispute, either party could apply to the courts to enforce the contract.

That is, you could, theoretically, be forced to complete the deal. However, most sales contracts contain escape clauses covering contract breach/termination, so this rarely, if ever, happens when dealing with new car sales.

Q: My Nissan dealer insists that the throttle body be cleaned every 24,000 km on my 2008 Nissan Frontier (currently with 35,000 km on it). Other vehicles I have owned, including Nissans, did not have this requirement.

Is there some design flaw in the Frontier that makes this cleaning necessary? The cost is $104.

A: Eli Melnick of Start Auto Electric (www.startauto.com) in Toronto replies:

I researched this topic and nowhere does it say that the throttle body should be cleaned regularly, particularly with this low mileage. You can verify this by looking up the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual.

With time, the throttle body can get dirty due to buildup of soot from the crankcase ventilation system, but unless you’re experiencing stalling and/or a rough idle, I would forego this service.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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