When someone buys a new vehicle in Ontario, dealerships must act not only in accordance with provincial laws, but also to a set of regulations and guidelines that governs the new car industry.
These regulations and guidelines are enforced by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC), a self-managed body that administers Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA). More specifically, OMVIC regulates and monitors the activities of registered motor vehicle dealers and protects the rights of consumers.
The Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) played a key role in helping to form OMVIC in 1997. Our association worked with the Ontario government and consumer groups to draft the original framework and guidelines that serve as policies for OMVIC today.
OMVIC is made up of a board of directors, including elected auto dealers, and consumer representatives appointed by the consumer minister.
OMVIC is responsible for all registered dealerships and sales staff, dealer inspections and investigations, complaint handling and maintaining professional standards. Anyone who operates a dealership or sells vehicles at a dealership in Ontario must submit to a screening process and meet the requirements outlined in the MVDA.
In addition to providing background checks on people who work in the industry, handling consumer complaints, inspecting dealerships to ensure continued compliance with the law, conducting investigations and prosecutions, OMVIC also administers a Code of Ethics and discipline process, and oversees a mandatory training course on automotive law.
If non-compliance issues are suspected, OMVIC can conduct investigations of dealerships. If a dealership or a staff member engages in activities that contravene the MVDA, OMVIC can take disciplinary action, including prosecution.
Consumers may wonder about OMVIC’s level of enforcement given that dealers are effectively monitoring other dealers. Fact is, since OMVIC was introduced, it has conducted thousands of inspections and investigations.
In February, a Mississauga man was sentenced to 50 days in jail for illegal vehicle sales — the industry term for this offence is ‘curbsiding.’ Curbsiders are individuals who are illegal unlicensed dealers who prey on unsuspecting car buyers, often using false identification, false vehicle information and false circumstances throughout the sales process.
Curbsiders often promote vehicles using newspaper advertisements, used car websites and online classified sites such as Craigslist and Kijiji.
Another area that OMVIC oversees is advertising. Prior to the establishment of OMVIC, clear standards for dealer advertising didn’t exist, and dealership ads could (and occasionally did) include improper claims with no repercussions.
Readers may be aware of a current OMVIC ad campaign that promotes the message of all-in price advertising. An all-in price includes all fees, PDI, freight, etc. Legally, the only amount of money the consumer may pay outside of the “all-in” advertised price would be the HST and licence costs.
However, when the new MVDA came into effect in 2010, the Ontario government decided to exempt advertisements placed by auto manufacturers from the legislation. As a consequence, there are two sets of rules: one for registered dealers who are obligated to include all fees in their ads; and one for manufacturers who are not. This double standard has led to confusion and frustration on the part of consumers and dealers. (It should be noted that some manufacturers have adopted the dealer advertising model for their advertising.)
The TADA fully supports all-in pricing and believes it makes the car buying experience much easier and allows more transparency for consumers.
For the past two decades, OMVIC has provided a blueprint for monitoring the activities of the retail automobile industry, ensuring that dealers operate with the highest professional standards and business ethics. It has also maintained a fair and informed marketplace by protecting the rights of consumers.
To make an inquiry or a complaint, contact OMVIC at 1-800-943-6002, ext. 3942, or online at www.omvic.on.ca.