Published Friday September 14
In this column over the years, there have been numerous references to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (OMVIC). Today, I want to provide an overview about this important industry body and about how it works.
Throughout the 1990s, the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association (TADA) recognized the need to regulate and monitor the activities of registered motor vehicle dealers in Ontario and to protect the rights of consumers.
To achieve this goal, the TADA worked closely with the Ontario government and several consumer groups to provide the framework and guidelines that eventually became the official policies for this body. OMVIC was officially established in 1997.
OMVIC is a self-managed body that is responsible for administering Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) (it was the first industry self-managed regulatory body created by the provincial government). OMVIC’s official mandate is to “maintain a fair, safe and informed marketplace in Ontario by protecting the rights of consumers, enhancing industry professionalism and ensuring fair, honest and open competition for registered motor vehicle dealers.”
OMVIC is comprised of a board of directors, including elected auto dealers, and consumer representatives appointed by the consumer minister. When OMVIC was first suggested, some critics doubted that a self-managed body could effectively monitor and regulate its own industry. But OMVIC's success and track record over the past 15 years have proved the naysayers wrong. As part of its mandate, OMVIC is responsible for all registered dealerships and sales staff, dealer inspections and investigations, complaint handling and maintaining professional standards.
On the registration side, anyone who wants to operate a dealership or sell vehicles at a dealership must submit to a screening process and meet the requirements outlined in the MVDA. These registrations must be renewed periodically.
If non-compliance issues are suspected, OMVIC has the right to conduct investigations on dealerships. If a dealership or a staff member engages in activities that contravene the MVDA, OMVIC can take disciplinary action, including prosecution.
Consumer complaints are part of the OMVIC mandate as well. If a dispute arises between a consumer and a dealership, or between dealerships, OMVIC will step in and try to facilitate a settlement.
One area of activity in which OMVIC is particularly vigilant is “curbsiding” – individuals who sell cars privately without the proper licensing and permits. Curbsiders prey on unsuspecting car buyers, often using false identification, false vehicle information and false circumstances throughout the sales process.
OMVIC actively investigates curbsiders and will bring offending parties to justice. This past March, a former salesperson was found guilty of an “unconscionable representation” under the Motor Vehicle Dealer Act and sentenced to seven months in jail.
OMVIC has a page on its website with information about what to look for and how to report a curbsider, as well as practical steps to reduce the odds of becoming the unwitting victim of a curbsider.
OMVIC also promotes comprehensive education programs for dealerships, and public awareness campaigns for consumers. OMVIC even has guidelines to protect consumers against misleading advertising.
The size of fine print, disclosure information, and the use of certain words and phrases in auto ads are some of the items that fall under OMVIC's scrutiny.
Most dealerships have systems in place to address issues of full disclosure, customer complaints and public awareness. Most new car dealerships do an excellent job operating in accordance with OMVIC’s guidelines and business practices, and I’m pleased to report that the retail car industry is doing its best to operate fairly and honestly.
To help achieve its mandate, OMVIC relies on input from the public and other dealers. If you want to make an enquiry or a complaint, contact OMVIC at 416-226-4500, toll-free at 1-800-943-6002 or online at www.omvic.on.ca.