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Dealer’s Voice: Buying privately?Beware of curbsiders

Published May 30, 2013

For more than a decade, the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) and the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC) have been promoting awareness of the illegal sale of used cars in Ontario, a practice known as “curbsiding.”

Despite these efforts urbsiders continue to flourish.

OMVIC, a self-managed body that regulates the automobile marketplace in Ontario, estimates that 25 per cent of all private classified advertisements are placed by curbsiders.

What are curbsiders?

They’re unscrupulous people who deliberately misrepresent themselves and the vehicles they are attempting to sell privately. These people employ a number of illegal tactics such as relying on false identification, false vehicle information and false circumstances.

Curbsiders will promote vehicles using a variety of print and online sources: newspaper advertisements, used car websites and online classified sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji.

Identifying curbsider ads is difficult to do because they resemble legitimate ads that appear alongside them. In person, these people may appear completely honest and forthcoming, but their car-selling activities are illegal and consumers need to know.

It’s legal to sell vehicles for a profit in Ontario, so long as the seller possesses a valid Dealer Licence issued by OMVIC and holds a valid vendor permit issued by the Ontario Minister of Finance.

If anyone sells a vehicle without a valid license or permit, they are breaking the law and are subject to a fine and/or jail time.

In January 2013, a Mississauga man was sentenced to 32 days in jail on many counts of pretending to be a motor vehicle dealer without the benefit of registration.

Readers may wonder where the harm is in selling an occasional vehicle without the proper licence and registration. In fact, you may know a friend, a relative or a neighbor who engages in that activity from time to time.

There is plenty wrong with it. The vehicles offered for sale by curbsiders are often misrepresented by the seller. These vehicles may have been involved in an accident or have liens against them, and the seller will not disclose this vital information to a prospective buyer.

As a result, unsuspecting buyers purchase vehicles without the benefit of consumer protection. Victims may report an incident to the police or to OMVIC, but there is nothing than can be done after the fact. In most cases, the curbsider has long since disappeared.

When you buy a used vehicle from a private seller, it’s a case of buyer-beware. The OMVIC website, www.omvic.on.ca, contains information about curbsiders, such as what to look for and how to report a curbsider. Comprehensive vehicle histories are available at www.carproof.com.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation, www.mto.gov.on.ca, provides detailed information about buying and selling a used vehicle on Ontario, including how to obtain a Used Vehicle Information Package.

If you plan on buying a car privately, here are telltale signs that you may be dealing with a curbsider:

  • They will avoid meeting you at a home or business address.
  • They are in a hurry and must sell because of “a family emergency.”
  • The name on the vehicle’s ownership and the driver’s license of the seller don’t match.
  • They offer a deal that appears too good to be true.
  • They fail to produce a Used Vehicle Information Package.

Car buyers need to be aware of the risks involved in purchasing a vehicle from a total stranger and without the benefit of consumer protections available when you buy from a registered new or used car dealer.

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