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In Quebec, it’s illegal for a dealership to charge more for their vehicles than the prices they advertise on their website or directly on the vehicles. While this law has been in place since 2010, it seems many auto merchants in the province aren’t respecting the rules, which is why there’s currently a class action against a number of Quebec car dealerships.
Over the past year, a Montreal law firm called Lambert Avocat Inc. has filed four class action lawsuits against a total of 220 Quebec dealers and 13 Canadian divisions of auto manufacturers. Their goal is to obtain punitive damages, along with reimbursement for any extra fees charged by the defendants in violation of the law for every class member.
Extra Fees Car Dealerships May Charge
Although there may be some additional costs attached to the sales price of a dealer car, such as taxes, there are plenty of fees that you aren’t legally obligated to pay. According to Lambert Avocat Inc, these were some of the following fees dealerships charged as mandatory.
- Administration, Application & Documentation Fees – Some dealers will tack on extra costs to compensate for the “services” they have to provide, like drawing up your contract, processing your application or checking your driver’s history.
- Transportation, Inspection & Preparation Fees – This may be anything from “reconditioning” (basic repairs and maintenance) to the cost of shipping the car, which illegal dealers may charge hundreds, even thousands of dollars more for.
- Concession, Cash Payment & Financing Fees – Sketchy auto dealers will even charge you to process the money you’re already paying them, as well as advertise discounts that have hidden conditions, both of which are highly illegal.
- Start-Up & Add-On Fees – While dealers offer add-ons like warranties, most of those costs are optional. However, dealers who break the law may charge you for items that should be voluntary or included with the advertised price, like:
- Anti-theft security devices (alarms, tracking systems, etc.)
- Other accessories (remote starter kits, winter tires, etc.)
- Protection plans (wheel and tire, paint and fabric, etc.)
- Factory and extended warranties
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Car Dealership Rules You Should Know
There are a number of provincial and federal regulations that car merchants must abide by in order to operate with 100% legality in Quebec, including but not restricted to:
All Costs Should Be Shown In The Advertised Price
Car dealers and manufacturers are prohibited from advertising anything but the “all-inclusive” price that you would pay to buy the vehicle. That price can’t be increased unless you request extra services or products. The only fees they can exclude from the price are:
- Car taxes: GST and HST
- Specific duties on new tires
No False Or Misleading Advertising
It’s also illegal for a merchant to conceal or falsify information related to the car, like its warranty coverage or performance. Additionally, the all-inclusive price must be clearly applied to any advertisements (online, signage, etc.) and the composite cost of the vehicle has to include:
- Vehicle transportation, delivery and preparation fees
- The excise tax on air conditioning units
- Administrative fees
Here are some other common examples of prohibited advertising, hidden costs and false information that you might encounter from a sketchy auto merchant in Quebec:
- Charging interest rates that go against the Consumer Protection Act
- Announcing major discounts with sneaky conditions required to get the car
- Using photos or illustrations that don’t accurately depict the vehicle
- Presenting details that aren’t completely eligible or comprehensible
- Using terms like “cost price”, “0% financing” or “discounts on cash payments” when they’re not true to the actual sales price of a vehicle
- Financing (car loan) plans that don’t clearly indicate your:
- Loan and down payment amount
- Payment sizes, dates and periods
- Total interest and service fees
- Vehicle’s full obligatory cost
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Why Do Dealerships Avoid Putting Price Tags On Their Car Windows?
As mentioned, a law was passed by the OPC (Office de la protection du consommateur) in 2010 that made it illegal for Quebec auto dealerships to charge anything other than the prices they advertised on their websites and purchase agreements, before taxes.
Article 244 of this law states that the announced price of a car must include all fees that the customer has to pay for the product or service provided. The only cost that shouldn’t be included in the price is the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) or Goods and Services Tax (GST). All other costs associated with the sales price have to be visibly broken down.
So, if a car dealer won’t let you leave their showroom with a purchase offer or doesn’t display their sales prices (before tax) on the windows of their vehicles, it’s probably because they’re trying not to get caught breaking section 244c of the OPC Law.
What Can You Do If A Dealership Has Overcharged You For A Car?
Despite class actions like the one presently being brought down by Lambert Avocat, there’s always a chance that an auto dealer or even a big-name manufacturer doesn’t play by the rules. Don’t worry, if you find out that you’ve been overcharged by a car dealership in Quebec, there are several things you can do to resolve the situation:
1. Informing the Merchant
It’s possible that the salesperson made a mistake or added an optional cost to your bill. Either way, the first thing you should do is contact them and ask for a resolution. Assuming they’re operating legally, they will refund the costs immediately but if they avoid you or refuse, try the next step.
2. Send A Notice
You can send a formal notice to your dealer stating your issue with the service. This is a letter that gives your dealer a chance to resolve the issue before going to court. If they do not respond adequately, you can file a claim with the court.
3. Reporting The Merchant
You can also contact the Office de la protection du consommateur by phone or in writing to report them (all offices are closed due to COVID-19). Have any documents related to the sale ready to be inspected (bill/receipt, warranty, invoice, etc.).
You can reach the OPC by phone, free of charge, from Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM and 1 PM to 4:30 PM, if you live in one of the following regions of Quebec:
- Montréal – 514 253-6556
- Québec – 418 643-1484
- Trois-Rivières – 819 371-6400
- Sherbrooke – 819 820-3694
- Gatineau – 819 772-3016
- Saguenay – 418 695-8427
- Saint-Jérôme – 450 569-7585
- Other areas in Quebec or Canada – 1 888 OPC-ALLO (1 888 672-2556)
Note: If a manufacturing defect is the reason you were overcharged for some part of your car, you can consider the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan (CAMVAP) too. This private court allows drivers to settle issues linked to the manufacturing process on vehicles that were constructed within the last 4 years (older cars aren’t usually eligible).
Don’t Let Dishonest Auto Merchants Take Advantage of You
As you can see, doing research is important before buying a vehicle, not just in Quebec but anywhere else in Canada. You never know when a car dealer or manufacturer could become the subject of a lawsuit for illegal practices. If you’ve been overcharged on a car purchase and want to know if you qualify for recourse, contact the Office de la protection du consommateur or an equivalent authority in your region.
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