Your car's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) may help you dodge a bad deal.
What is a VIN? Well, it's kind of like your car's fingerprint. Technically speaking, every car is identified by a unique combination of 17 digits – no two cars have the same VIN. Most often, the VIN is found on the dashboard near the windshield and inside the driver's side door. Cars that are more prone to theft may also have the VIN etched in other places.
So how can the VIN help you avoid getting scammed in a private sale? Often, a private seller may turn out to be a curber. They may misrepresent the history and/or condition of the car or try to sell you a stolen vehicle. But, using the car's VIN, you can find important information about its history. This includes any prior accidents, registration information, and unpaid liens. Ultimately, you can use the VIN to make sure the car is really what the seller claims it is.
Before you purchase, make sure to:
- Check all VIN locations to confirm the numbers are the same
- Check for any signs of VIN tampering (including scratched numbers, paint or glue over VIN area)
- Match the VIN number on the vehicle with the VIN number on the registration documents
- Use a VIN decoder (CarProof has a free one) to see if vehicle characteristics match up
Over an eight-month long investigation, the Edmonton Police Service has been tracking down a fraudulent registration scheme involving stolen high-end travel trailers and recreational equipment worth approximately $863,130 that was resold to unsuspecting consumers.
Taken from driveways and parking lots from across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, the stolen RVs were given false VINs and registered using counterfeit bills of sale. They were then sold to innocent buyers through online classified websites such as Kijiji. Once police were able to identify the stolen vehicles, they were returned to their rightful owners. However, that left the buyers of the RVs empty-handed and out of cash, "such as one individual from Kelowna who purchased a travel trailer for $35,000."
Two of the three men responsible for the scheme have now been charged. Detectives believe, however, that there are other stolen vehicles still available for sale.
This case further cautions consumers to be wary of buying privately. Someone who seems like a legitimate private seller may actually be a curber (an unlicensed dealer). And, instead of selling a vehicle honestly, curbers often misrepresent the history and condition of a vehicle. It is not uncommon for a curber to sell a stolen vehicle as well.
Buying from a licensed dealer and getting a vehicle history report is the best way to ensure maximum protection. BC car buyers are encouraged to check the list of known curbers and buy from licensed dealers. A registry of licensed dealers and salespeople in BC can be accessed here.
Read the full story on the investigation here.
In the last few months, General Motors (GM) has recalled millions of motor vehicles surrounding ignition switch issues and other concerns. The Government of Canada is currently undertaking a review of GM Canada's handling of these recalls. Unless there is evidence to suggest a particular B.C. motor dealer has somehow misrepresented these recalls to a particular consumer, the VSA will not be conducting its own investigation.
If it is suspected that a safety-related defect is affecting your vehicle, it can be reported to Transport Canada's Defect Investigations and Recalls Division. They will investigate consumer concerns about possible vehicle safety issues needing a recall notice.
In short, total price is the full amount a consumer has to pay to purchase the vehicle. So, the price shown in the ad must include:
· All dealer fees*
· Inspection fees
· Accessory costs
· Any other additional fees and transportation charges
It is important to mention, however, that the total listed price does not need to include PST, GST and other taxes (these will still be added to your final total at the end).
*While dealer fees are not mandatory, they aren't illegal either. Dealers may choose to charge a certain fee, and there is no set amount to what that fee is. Regardless of the amount, dealers are obligated to inform you of these extra fees upfront – there should be no surprises at the end! In an ad, the fees might be displayed separately from the vehicle price (for example: $15,395 + $250 doc. fees). If there are no additional fees displayed, then you are right to assume that they are included in the total price. Dealer fees may consist of any routine documentation, administration or registration fees. And remember, dealer fees are not required by law and should not be described as government or insurance fees.
Two separate rulings were recently released in which the BC Supreme Court upheld two decisions of the Registrar of Motor Dealers against two motor dealers.
In a decision dating back to 2009, the Registrar assessed that Crown Autobody and Auto Sales Ltd. committed several deceptive acts under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (BPCPA). This included:
- Misrepresenting a Toyota Prius as roadworthy when it was, in reality, unsafe
- Declaring that the vehicle passed two required BC safety inspections
- Misrepresenting the actual number of kilometers travelled by the vehicle
The Registrar required Crown Autobody to refund to the consumers the purchase price of the vehicle. Additionally, a $20,000 administrative penalty was issued. Due to the severity of the violation, however, the Registrar also revoked the dealer's motor dealer licence.
The second ruling involved Windmill Auto Sales & Detailing. The Registrar found that a deceptive act was committed; in this case, the dealer misrepresented the amount of damage done to a Dodge Ram, stating it had $1,800 instead of $6,200 worth of damages.
The Registrar issued a Compliance Order against Windmill, requiring the dealer to refund to the consumers the purchase price of the vehicle, as well as pay administrative penalties totaling over $2,000.
In both cases, the Court upheld the Registrar's compliance orders and confirmed that the Registrar's decisions met "the standard of justification, intelligibility and transparency." Their decisions were based, in part, on the fact that "the BPCPA is consumer protection legislation that places a reverse onus of proof on a supplier of goods in a consumer transaction" and that "there is a positive duty imposed on car dealers to ensure that the required disclosure representations are true."
Read the full Court decisions here:
As part of Consumer Awareness Week, the VSA has partnered with Consumer Protection BC to inform younger consumers of the obligations that come with contracts.
Five tips before signing a sales agreement for a new or used car have been released. As buying a first vehicle is a highly exciting and significant moment for a youth, the VSA and Consumer Protection BC hope that BC consumers between the ages of 17-25 "take five" before they sign to ensure a smooth transaction. The tips, therefore, stress on reading and fully understanding all details of the contract before signing on the dotted line.
View the complete top five tips before signing a sales agreement here.
Follow Consumer Awareness week at www.take5BC.ca.
Refer to the VSA's Buying Tips for further guidelines and information.
This week (May 12-16) marks the second annual Consumer Awareness Week in B.C. The theme of "Take5" not only represents the number of tips released each day, but also urges consumers to "take five" – or pause - before signing a contract. Through a series of five topics, Consumer Protection BC and its partners are "putting consumer contracts in the spotlight, reminding B.C. youth of the rights and obligations that come with signing on the dotted lines."
Once again, the VSA has partnered with Consumer Protection BC and has focused on five tips younger consumers need to be aware of before signing a sales agreement for a new or used vehicle. A press release, as well as several radio announcements, will be issued on Wednesday, May 14.
The VSA, along with Consumer Protection BC and several other organizations, hope that Consumer Awareness Week will help educate consumers between the ages of 17-25 to make informed contractual decisions.
Motorcycle dealers are required to follow the same advertising rules as automobile and RV dealers. The VSA Advertising Guidelines require the dealer name and number as well as the total price of the motorcycle in all ads. A consumer can assume that freight and PDI are included in the advertised price for a motorcycle as it must be total price. Failure to offer a motorcycle to a buyer at this advertised price, or to add freight and PDI to the advertised price, could be a violation of the Motor Dealer Act.
Dealers are obligated to declare and disclose information to the best of their knowledge and belief. But remember, as a consumer, you also have a responsibility to tell the dealership exactly what you're looking for in a vehicle. Here are some things to consider:
What does material fact mean?
A material fact is anything that can have a significant impact on your buying decision. Material facts are not universal – what may be material to one person may not be for another. Some material facts are set in law:
- If the vehicle was used as a rental
- If the vehicle came from another province or the U.S.
- If the vehicle had repairs due to damage that cumulatively cost more than $2,000
Others will be based on the specific needs of the buyer. Such as:
- a pet-free used vehicle
- if the vehicle was previously used by a smoker
- specific load or towing capacity for a camper or trailer
Is a dealer required to tell me if a used car has damage less than $2,000?
It depends on you, the consumer. Ask yourself – if there is less than $2,000 of damage on a vehicle, is it important? If yes, then this is considered a material fact. But, the dealer needs to know it's important to you to have the complete accident history, not just the minimum declaration required by the law.
How is a dealer supposed to know what is material to me?
As a consumer, your job is to clearly communicate what you want in a vehicle. If having a pet-free vehicle is important to you – and will ultimately affect your decision whether to buy or not – say so!
I bought a vehicle and found out that it had a long history of accidents. If I had known this, I probably wouldn't have bought it. What happens now?
A licensed dealer is accountable whether even they innocently, intentionally or negligently didn't tell you about required material facts or specific requirements that you made clear to them prior to the negotiations. You may file a complaint with the VSA. The complaint will be assessed to confirm that the VSA has jurisdiction. If the VSA jurisdiction, the complaint will be investigated.
The risks of buying from curbers are being recognized as the Mainland Better Business Bureau (BBB) named curbers the Top Sales Scam of 2014.
This year, the BBB focused their Top Ten Scams around Fraud Prevention Month, "celebrating 10 years of educating consumers to Recognize it! Report it! Stop it!" Alongside curbers were scams such as catphishing, affinity fraud, astroturfing and more.
With the official release of the Top Ten Scams, a press conference was held on February 28th. Representatives from the BBB, BC Securities Commission, Consumer Protection BC, the Competition Bureau of Canada, the RCMP and the VSA were all present and provided insights into their fields.
The VSA also had the opportunity to introduce their upcoming consumer awareness campaign featuring Walt the Curber. With the intent to raise awareness and keep used car buyers safe, the campaign is a collaborative effort between the VSA, CarProof Vehicle History Reports and ICBC. Walt represents a fictional curber and, through his confessions, is used to show readers the dangers of buying from sellers like him and the importance of vehicle history reports.
More information on the Top Ten Scams and the consumer campaign can be found: