Stricter policing for Quebec auto dealers needed, consumer group says

A consumer watchdog group says the province needs to do a better job monitoring car dealers after learning of a Montreal woman's bizzare trade-in hassle.

Woman billed for lease on car she traded in

Vinita Kumar told CBC she traded in her husband's leased Honda Civic 2011 to lower the payments on her new Volkswagen Jetta, but was temporarily stuck getting billed for both cars. 3:34

The provincial consumer protection agency needs to do a better job monitoring car dealers, the Automobile Protection Association said after hearing about a local driver's bizarre trade-in hassle.

On Sept. 3, Vinita Kumar traded in her husband's leased Honda Civic 2011 to get a discount when she bought a new Volkswagen Jetta from Rimar Volkswagen dealership in St-Leonard.

However, Kumar told CBC Montreal Investigates her account was still charged for the lease of the Honda and she ended up being charged for two vehicles: her trade-in and her new Volkswagen.

"It's just expense after expense and headaches," she told CBC.

The problem has since been resolved.

The Automobile Protection Association (APA) said disputes such as this one used to be mediated by Quebec's Office de la Protection du Consommateur.

Iny said the Office moved away from that role two years ago, and the lack of policing is sorely missed.

"It's a problem," said APA director George Iny.

The Automobile Protection Association's George Iny says the provincial Office de la Protection du Consommateur needs to do a better job policing car dealerships. (CBC )

"We're seeing cases now that maybe would not have gone this far if someone from the government had called and said 'Hey, step up your game.'"

Quebec's Office de la Protection du Consommateur said the mediation it provided until 2012 in cases like this was largely symbolic. It had no enforcement mechanisms on companies.

The provincial agency also said it would still look into companies if it received multiple complaints about the same entity.

Two digits off

Kumar said the problem arose when the VW dealership bought a Honda that wasn’t Kumar’s trade in by mistake.

Only two digits differentiate the Vehicle Identification Number of Kumar’s old Honda car from the one Rimar Volkswagen bought in error from the wrong dealership.

In an interview with CBC, the VW dealership's comptroller Silvia Iannella insisted the original mistake was Kumar's.

Rimar Volkswagen said Kumar told them her car was from Honda Lombardi, in St-Leonard.

However, it had been leased from Honda des Sources in Dorval.

"We're not in the business of losing money," Iannella said.

She said the dealership agreed to lower Kumar's monthly payments on her Jetta based on what it thought was her Civic's price.

She pointed out the difference in value of the car it bought from Honda Lombardi was $2,474 from what it would have paid for the Civic Kumar had been leasing.

Kumar denies making that error.

She gave CBC a document she said is the cover page of a faxed contract sent to Rimar Volkswagen by Honda Lombardi on the Aug. 26.

Silvia Iannella from the Rimar Volkswagen dealership denies that her company was responsible for the original mistake in acquiring the wrong car. (CBC )

She said that document, which lists a lessee who is not Kumar or her husband, should have been a red flag to the Volkswagen dealership.

Kumar said she didn’t see that contract until after the deal went through on Sept. 3.

Iannella said she had never seen the fax cover page and didn’t know what it was.

Paid up

After a series of back and forth emails and phone calls, Rimar managed to get the money it spent on the wrong car back.

A cheque dated Sept. 30 the VW dealership produced for CBC shows it paid the outstanding amount to the correct dealer, Honda Des Sources, two weeks after Kumar first signalled the problem.

Kumar, though, said she is still out $267, money taken from her account in September as a part of her monthly lease.

She is hoping to receive a reimbursement by Rimar Volkswagen.

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