Ontario’s motor vehicle industry was previously regulated by the former Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations and OMVIC’s creation on January 7, 1997 marked the first regulated business sector to move to self-management. OMVIC is non-profit and governed by a 12-member Board of Directors. Fifty-five staff members, a number of whom work from regional home-based offices, provide OMVIC’s services.
Registration with OMVIC is mandatory for Ontario’s motor vehicle dealers and salespersons.
- Consumer protection through pursuit of those who would prey on an unwary public
- Increased consumer confidence through compliance activities and complaint handling
- Consumer awareness through dissemination of information concerning consumer rights via public information and awareness programs
- Dealer professionalism through certification programs for new dealers and salespersons
- Increased accountability through administration of a Code of Ethics, Standards of Business Practice and an open disciplinary process
Registration is mandatory for motor vehicle dealers and salespersons in Ontario and is valid for a two year period.
OMVIC conducts criminal record searches Canada-wide on every individual entering or returning to the industry. These background searches assist in ensuring anyone entering the industry will conduct themselves with honesty and integrity, as well as in a financially responsible manner – all of which are requirements of the MVDA. Completion of the OMVIC certification course is also a requirement for registration.
OMVIC’s Registrar determines whether applicants qualify for registration and whether existing registrants continue to be qualified for registration. In order to keep registration valid, registrants must abide by industry legislation and OMVIC’s Standards of Business Practice Failure to do so may result in administrative action or even a proposal to revoke registration. The Registrar has a responsibility to propose refusal or revocation of registration, or to propose terms and conditions of registration, as appropriate.
When the office of the Registrar proposes to refuse or revoke registration, the affected applicant or registrant may request a hearing before the Licence Appeal Tribunal (LAT). In such cases, the Registrar’s office presents the case for refusal or revocation before a panel of the Tribunal. The panel may direct the Registrar to carry out the proposal, modify the proposal or set aside the proposal and replace it with its own order.
Other registration activities include dealer and salesperson renewals, processing information changes and salesperson transfers from dealer to dealer.
OMVIC’s complaint team handles inquiries and complaints from both consumers and dealers regarding the conduct of registered motor vehicle dealers in Ontario. Complaints can be submitted online through OMVIC’s web site (www.omvic.on.ca), or by phone.
Intake staff collect basic information initially, provide self-help instructions to the consumer/dealer and escalate the file to a complaint depending on the nature of the concerns and the information provided by the complainant. In many situations, consumers are encouraged to settle the disagreement by contacting the dealer directly.
Once a complaint file is opened, it may take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks – or even months – to complete, depending upon the complexity of issues, the availability of documents and the level of cooperation of those involved. However, the vast majority of complaint files are resolved within a few days. Issues related to liquidated damages, misrepresentation, vehicle condition, contract disputes and safety certificates are the most common complaints handled.
In the event a consumer feels a complaint has not been handled properly by OMVIC, the consumer may appeal to the Appeals Committee of OMVIC’s Board of Directors. The Appeals Committee is chaired by a non-industry Board member appointed by the Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services.
The MVDA requires members to conduct business from premises approved by the Registrar and sets out the requirement to have a lot, sign and an office for the conduct of business. The MVDA also sets out requirements for the maintenance of books and records at the registered premises. Dealers may only use the services of registered salespersons whose registrations indicate they are providing services to that dealer.
Under the MVDA, appropriately appointed inspectors have the right to inspect a dealer’s premises, to view and photocopy books and records and to make inquiries regarding any complaint received about the dealer’s conduct. A record is kept of all completed inspections and, as necessary, follow-up action is taken.
OMVIC’s investigators are appointed under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act, the Provincial Offences Act, and are also designated as Special Constables. They are empowered to conduct investigations under several relevant statutes. As a result of those investigations, investigators may lay charges under a number of provincial statutes including the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act and the Consumer Protection Act, 2002
Investigations fall into two broad categories: unregistered activity (curbsiders), and industry conduct – which typically involve allegations of odometer tampering, falsifying records and non-disclosure of accidents.
Investigations are initiated from information received from various sources including referrals from OMVIC inspectors, consumer complaints, police and other dealers. If substantiated, they can result in prosecution, proposal for revocation, or referral to the Discipline Committee.
Investigators also provide education and support to other law enforcement agencies through presentations at training conferences and partnership in joint law enforcement projects.
OMVIC is a member of the Provincial Auto Theft Task Force and investigators are members of the International Association of Auto Theft Investigators. Joint forces operations have been conducted with the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Ministry of Transportation’s Branding unit, Project Econo Car, Project Phantom and Durham Regional police.
All motor vehicle dealers and salespersons are required to comply with OMVIC’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice Alleged breaches of the Code are heard before a Discipline Panel and the panel may impose penalties. All parties can be represented by counsel at hearings and dealers are given the opportunity to submit documentation supporting their position. Following a hearing, the panel issues a formal decision which is published as a matter of record.
Recent discipline issues have focused on industry conduct, unregistered salespeople, the lack of safety certificates for leased vehicles and advertising complaints. The majority of cases were settled without a hearing, and although dealers may have faced fines, most were also required to adopt a policy that requires all sales staff to be certified – a process that emphasizes education.
The Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund is a consumer protection fund that was introduced in 1986. It reimburses consumers for problems arising from motor vehicle transactions with registered dealers under the specific circumstances described in the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act. The fund trustees consider each case individually on its own merits. Consumers are expected to have exhausted all other legal remedies prior to making a claim against the Fund and full documentation as evidence of their claim is required.
To be eligible for consideration by the Fund’s Board of Trustees, a written claim must be submitted within two years of a registered dealer refusing or failing to pay compensation, and must be based on one of the situations described below:
- A customer has won a judgment (related to a trade in a motor vehicle) in an Ontario court against a registered dealer who has then failed or refused to pay
- A customer has suffered a financial loss resulting from a trade in a motor vehicle as a result of a dealer’s bankruptcy or receivership
- A customer has suffered a financial loss resulting from a trade in a motor vehicle for which the dealer has been convicted of an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada
- A customer has made a down payment or left a deposit on a vehicle and the dealer has delivered neither the vehicle nor an acceptable alternative and has not refunded the money. It should be noted that a claim to the Fund cannot be based on the cost, value or quality of a vehicle that has been delivered.
- A customer has purchased an extended warranty or service plan that is not underwritten by an insurance company and the claim is for a non-earned premium or for a repair under the warranty
The Motor Vehicle Dealers Compensation Fund is supported through a fee that dealers must pay when they apply for registration to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council. The maximum amount that can be paid for any one claim is $15,000 (CAD).
When the Fund pays a claim, the consumer signs over to the Fund all rights and remedies related to the claim to which he or she is entitled. The Fund may then pursue its own legal action to recover the amount of the claim from the dealer or the dealer’s representative.
The Fund cannot compensate consumers for a loss resulting from a private sale or a transaction involving a company that is not registered under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act. Nor can the Fund compensate a business, other dealer or other customer acting in a business relationship even if the dealer is registered under the Act and a court judgment received. These restrictions reflect the Fund’s mandate: industry-funded consumer protection.
OMVIC launched Know Your Ride, a secondary school program that teaches high school students in Ontario about the dangers of buying vehicles privately, in 2007. The program was developed with input from educators and was designed to be an integral component of the Grade 10 Civics curriculum. The program consists of a DVD for use in classrooms and is supported by materials for both teachers and students. These kits are made available to every high school in Ontario.