An Ontario auto dealership has been charged after allegedly saddling a consumer with more than $80,000 of debt and $800 monthly payments for a new car.
Brendan Vettoretti of Windsor claims he was nearly forced into bankruptcy after buying a new vehicle at Clarke Chevrolet Buick GMC in Amherstburg, Ont., south of Windsor.
The dealership now faces charges under the Consumer Protection Act. None of the allegations have been proven. Those charged are expected in court next month.
Vettoretti said a telemarketing firm enticed him to go to the dealership. He tells CBC news he was led to believe he was being offered a chance to win $10,000 off the price of a new vehicle.
Vettoretti had recently purchased a new Saturn and still owed $37,000 on the car.
However, Vettoretti said salesman Jesse Howell talked him into trading it in on a new GMC Acadia.
The dealer gave him $15,000 for his Saturn.
It all happened so fast, Vettoretti said he didn't have time to figure out it wasn't a good deal.
The deal saddled him with $83,000 in debt and monthly payments of $800.
Later that day, he realized he couldn't afford the payments so he called the dealer back.
"I hadn't signed the contracts and the truck was still on their lot and the manager said there were eight things they'd have to do to get me out of the contract and that they wouldn't do it," Vettoretti claimed.
He said he didn't realize that, by law,since he had not signed a contract he could have changed his mind and he later continued with the purchase.
But the deal was so lopsided that he ended up owing more than $80,000 and he couldn't get a bank to loan him the money.
He considered bankruptcy, but then a financial counsellor told him about the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, which regulates auto dealers.
The council investigated and wound up charging the Clarke dealership, James Clarke and Jesse Howell with unconscionable business practice.
The dealership is also charged with having an unregistered salesperson, in contravention of the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act.
The council said the dealer convinced Vettoretti to sign a "complicated purchase financing agreement."
The council also said Vettoretti was "unable to protect his own interests because of an inability to understand the contract’s language." It also said the "transaction was excessively one-sided in favour of the dealer."
Vettoretti eventually got his Saturn back and the contract was retracted by the dealer.
"The terminology and the language used in it, he did not understand the words. He did not know exactly what they meant, and therefore, he didn't understand the commitment he was making, how much it was going to cost him," said Terry O'Keefe, who speaks for OMVIC.
Clarke did not respond to a request for an interview Wednesday.
Earlier this year, Clarke was fined $4,500 for a breach of the code of ethics for not meeting some regulatory requirements.
Under the law, consumers have a year to apply to the OMVIC for help if they feel they've been unfairly dealt with in an auto deal . There is no such protection on private deals.
A previous version of this story said Ontario law allows a 48-hour "cooling off period" during which a buyer can change their mind. That is not the case.May 04, 2012 9:55 AM ET