Published on Friday, 27 July 2012
In May 2012, I had the privilege of attending an industry event to introduce the new branding initiatives (new logo and website) for the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP).
For readers who may be unfamiliar with CAMVAP, since 1994 this not-for-profit organization has played an important role in resolving disputes across Canada between consumers and auto manufacturers.
When consumers have a legitimate complaint about a vehicle defect or a warranty issue, there are several options available to try and resolve the matter.
They can contact the dealership where the vehicle was purchased, and management will attempt to resolve the matter quickly and fairly.
Failing that, they can contact the automobile manufacturer directly (all manufacturers have consumer affairs departments) to try and resolve the issue.
If neither of those options leads to a satisfactory resolution, after the dealer and the manufacturer have been given a reasonable opportunity to resolve the problem, CAMVAP offers a third option, serving as an independent, neutral body that arbitrates disputes between consumers and automobile manufacturers. It’s a free service for consumers that operates in all provinces and territories.
The provincial and territorial governments, the automobile manufacturers and dealers and consumers are members of the CAMVAP organization and are represented on the board of directors.
Vehicles eligible for CAMVAP arbitration include cars, light duty trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles and multi-purpose passenger vehicles. Eligible vehicles include current model year and any vehicles within the four previous model years.
The success of CAMVAP as a mechanism to resolve disputes is due to the program’s neutrality and the speed and efficiency with which the process works.
When consumers are seeking resolution for a vehicle defect, or challenging some aspect of their vehicle’s warranty coverage, they simply file an application with CAMVAP. This can be initiated from CAMVAP’s website (www.camvap.ca) or by calling toll free 1-800-207-0685.
Once CAMVAP is contacted, it sets in motion a series of steps aimed at allowing both sides (consumer and manufacturer) to prepare and present their respective cases before an arbitrator. Claimants have the right to hire their own lawyer (entirely optional), call witnesses and collect evidence in much the same way that they would prepare for a regular court case.
Hearings are held in the consumer’s home community and typically last for two to three hours. The entire arbitration process usually takes less than 70 days from a consumer’s initial contact with CAMVAP to the time a judgment has been made.
CAMVAP’s primary role is to facilitate a fair and independent adjudication on all cases brought before it. In other words, CAMVAP is structured to level the playing field between the consumer and the manufacturer. Despite what might at first glance appear to be an intimidating process, most consumers can very effectively handle their own CAMVAP case without the need to engage a lawyer.
Before choosing CAMVAP to solve a dispute, consumers need to know that it represents a court of last resort. By pursuing CAMVAP, they waive their right to proceed with legal action either against the dealership or the manufacturer at a later date.
CAMVAP handles about 300 cases per year across Canada, with approximately 130 – 140 of those cases in Ontario.
More than $11.9 million has been paid to consumers in Ontario since 1994 for vehicles that have been bought back throughout the CAMVAP program.
In 2011, CAMVAP arbitrators made 83 repair awards, 11 reimbursements for repairs awards totaling slightly over $17,000, and 70 buyback awards totaling $1,930,402.
As an alternative to a costly and time-consuming civil suit against an auto manufacturer, CAMVAP offers consumers a free, fair and impartial means to settle disputes in a timely fashion.
On behalf of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, I’d like to congratulate CAMVAP on all its successes over the past 18 years, and on its exciting new branding initiatives.
Trillium Automobile Dealers Association president Frank Romeo is a new car dealer in the GTA. This column represents the view of TADA. Visit tada.ca or email email@example.com