Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia dealers group calls for stronger rules for used car sales

The head of the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association wants to see more accountability for how used car dealers operate and treat their customers.

Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association wants more accountability for how used car dealers operate

An association representing new car dealers in Nova Scotia is calling on the province to strengthen used car dealer legislation. (CBC)

It's time to strengthen regulations governing used car dealers in Nova Scotia, according to an industry association.

John Sutherland, executive director of the Nova Scotia Automobile Dealers Association, wants to see more accountability for how used car dealers and their salespeople operate and treat their customers.

"There needs to be some change to the regulations such that the conduct of the business from a consumer-protection standpoint is a consideration in the licensing process," Sutherland told CBC News.

Sutherland, whose group represents new car dealers, many of whom also sell used vehicles, was responding to a CBC investigation that found one used car salesman in Lower Sackville has criminal convictions covering a span of 20 years, including theft and possession of stolen property.

Darren Blumenthal, a salesman at Great Buys Auto Sales, is also facing a charge of fraud over $5,000 involving a vehicle purchased last year by a young Beaver Bank couple.

"The case at hand is a particularly egregious case for sure," Sutherland said.

Car salespeople like Blumenthal are not regulated in any way in Nova Scotia, but are in five other provinces.

Improvements needed

"Whether one licenses sales people or registers them that would be one option," said Sutherland.

"The other option is to consider the conduct of that individual when working for a dealer and tying that conduct to the dealership's licence."

Under existing legislation in the province, the registrar of motor vehicles can revoke, suspend or refuse a licence if a dealer acts in bad faith, commits fraud or is untrustworthy.

The Department of Transportation said it's cancelled or suspended 90 dealer licences in the past five years, "mainly when they move and don't notify the department of their new location or have no principle place of business," department spokesman Brian Taylor told CBC News in an email. 

Sutherland said his association is part of a national organization that has developed a code of ethics for new car dealers, who are expected to operate with integrity and a high standard of ethical conduct.

Regulations governing vehicle dealers in Nova Scotia are 27 years old. Sutherland called them "facilities-oriented" and said the association has worked closely with the registry of motor vehicles over the years looking at options to revise them.

Can't control private sales

He cautions, however, that regulations won't solve all the problems because an estimated 50 per cent of used cars are sold privately.

"Half of the problem is out there in the private realm and many of those individuals who perhaps aren't dealing ethically will simply go online and sell vehicles privately and not even attempt to register as a dealer," he said. "I'm not quite sure how you get at that."

Several other provinces also require criminal record checks for salespeople and/or dealers, but Sutherland said that's not going to help with vehicles sold privately .

"We as an association feel that there needs to be some strengthening of the regulations, but we also recognize in doing that it's difficult to get your arms around that portion of the market that does not flow through dealers at all," he said.

The Department of Transportation says anyone with a complaint against a car dealer can email mvi@novascotia.ca or dealers@novascotia.ca

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's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.