Nova Scotia·CBC Investigates

Unhappy customer calls for more protection for used car buyers

A Halifax woman who won a court judgement against a Lower Sackville used car dealer now charged with fraud is calling for more protection for used car buyers in the province.

Sharon Forward and her son Neilson Graham won $10,000 judgement against Great Buys Auto Sales

Neilson Graham's Subaru needed $15,000 worth of repairs just weeks after he purchased it from Great Buys Auto Sales in Lower Sackville. (Robert Short/CBC)

A Halifax woman who won a court judgement against a Lower Sackville used car dealer now charged with fraud is calling for more protection for used car buyers in the province.

Sharon Forward and her son Neilson Graham won the $10,000 judgement against Great Buys Auto Sales in Lower Sackville after a car they purchased there developed engine failure six weeks later.

Graham bought the 2009 Subaru Impreza WRX STI from Darren Blumenthal at Great Buys in September 2015 for $26,500.

When the car broke down, it was towed back to the dealership where Forward said it sat for weeks, despite promises from Blumenthal that it would be fixed.

'I lost sleep'

She said after weeks of unkept promises, Blumenthal arranged for the car to be towed to a Subaru dealership where it was diagnosed with complete engine failure. 

An extended warranty covered $5,000 of the repair bill, but Forward was left to pay the remaining $10,000 out of pocket.

"I lost sleep. It was financially stressful," she said. "I had to come up with money at a very short notice when I realized it was going to be $10,000 out of my pocket.

"I really kind of had to take a hard look at where I was going to come up with this money."

$10,000 judgement 

Great Buys Auto Sales in Lower Sackville. (CBC)

Forward took Great Buys Auto Sales to small claims court and won a $10,000 judgement against the company, which is owned by Blumenthal's wife.

Blumenthal told CBC News the company is appealing the judgement. He said the problems with the car resulted from poor driving.

Forward said she has recovered a portion of the $10,000 judgement but worries about others who may not be able to afford a lawyer or have the resources to take action.

"I want protection for people. I don't want to see this happen to anyone again," she said.

Forward isn't the only person with a complaint against Great Buys Auto Sales and Blumenthal.

Charged with fraud over $5000

Melanie Pottie and Chris Bezanson have no car and $44,000 in debts after dealing with the business. Blumenthal has been charged with fraud over $5,000 in their case.

Ahmed Al Jabar also has a small claims court judgement against Great Buys Auto Sales for almost $2,400 for a warranty he cancelled but was never reimbursed for.

Great Buys Auto Sales has an "F" rating at the Better Business Bureau of Atlantic Canada where there are five complaints against the business.

Blumenthal previously operated and/or worked at other used cars dealerships including Bedford Fine Car Automotive and Sackville Fine Cars.

CBC News found two small claims judgements against Sackville Fine Cars, one in the amount of $4,472 and another for $547.85, that name Blumenthal as a defendant.

Ontario legislation

Forward has researched consumer protections elsewhere in the country and wants to see the Nova Scotia government implement legislation and checks similar to those in Ontario, where the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council regulates motor vehicle sales.

Its mandate is "to maintain a fair and informed marketplace by protecting the rights of consumers, enhancing industry professionalism and ensuring fair, honest and open competition for registered motor vehicle dealers."

The organization was set up, in part, to address the issue of unscrupulous used car dealers.

"All used car dealers are members of this and when they sell a car they pay a small fee and that fee actually goes toward resolving complaints and issues that anybody may have with a car they buy from a used car dealer," Forward said. "It makes them accountable and it protects the consumer."

Forward feels there is little protection for Nova Scotians when they're buying from a used car dealer.

"As far as I'm concerned you can buy from anybody on Kijiji and you're probably safer."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

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