What if vehicles tried to sell themselves online, just like men and women do on dating sites? Quite a few would likely describe themselves as far more attractive and desirable than they really might be.
“My friends say I don’t look a kilometre over 85,000.” Meanwhile, what the unsuspecting, hopeful single who swiped right doesn’t know is that deceitful old Buick’s odometer has been rolled back 100,000 km.
“I keep my body in great shape!!” Yeah right, that Venza was a complete write-off with structural damage that cost over $14,000 to get into “great shape”.
Both are classic cases of “carfishing”, quite similar to what online daters refer to as “catfishing”… simply, false advertising.
How to Spot a “Carfish”
OMVIC, Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator wants you to know advertisements placed by registered dealers must be legal, decent, ethical and truthful – there can be no false, misleading or deceptive representations. But those laws do not apply to ads placed by private sellers, or worse, by curbsiders – illegal unlicensed dealers who commonly pose as private sellers. “Curbsiders often sell vehicles that are rebuilt wrecks or have rolled back odometers,” explains Terry O’Keefe, OMVIC’s Director of Communications and Education. “Deception and misrepresentation are two of their most prevalent tactics.”
“Carfish” ads placed by curbsiders are common in online classifieds: OMVIC research indicates one in four “for sale by owner” vehicle ads, was actually placed by a curbsider. And while their ads are meant to lure the unsuspecting, there are signs you could be dealing with a curbsider:
- Vehicle is priced below market value.
- Vehicle is not registered in seller's name or has only been registered in his/her name for a short period of time.
- Seller doesn’t provide vehicle history report.
- Seller refuses vehicle inspection by purchaser’s mechanic.
- Seller won’t allow the vehicle to be taken for a thorough test drive.
- Vehicle has mechanic/dealer plate attached (curbsiders often gain access to these).
- Seller only wants to meet in public.
- Seller won’t provide a receipt or proof of purchase.
Buying From a Dealer is Safer Than Buying Privately
In addition to the advertising regulations mentioned above Ontario’s Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA) requires dealers and salespeople to provide 24 explicit disclosures about the past use, history and condition of a vehicle including accident repairs greater than $3,000 and the true distance the vehicle has travelled. In certain circumstances, failure by the dealer to do so can result in a customer’s immediate right to rescind (cancel) the contract and return the vehicle. Providing disclosure verbally isn’t sufficient. All disclosures MUST be made in writing on the contract in a “clear, comprehensible and prominent manner.” Disclosures must also be presented in a timely manner so the customer can review them BEFORE signing the contract.
Contract Rescission – And How it Works
In Ontario, there is no "cooling-off" period when buying a car. Once a consumer signs a contract to buy a vehicle the sale is final. However, if the dealer has failed to make one of the following mandated disclosures, the MVDA allows a customer to cancel a contract within 90 days:
- Previous use of the vehicle as a taxi or limo.
- Previous use of the vehicle as a police or emergency service vehicle.
- Previous use of the vehicle as a daily rental (unless the vehicle has subsequently been owned by someone other than a dealer).
- The make, model, and model year of the vehicle.
- That a vehicle has been branded (irreparable, salvage or rebuilt), and how last classified.
- The actual distance the vehicle has travelled. (If that cannot be determined, a dealer must make the appropriate disclosure statement.)
If rescission occurs a consumer can return the vehicle and get back all of their money, even if the dealer was unaware of a vehicle’s true history and sold it in good faith.
Consumers may also have up to one year to request rescission if a dealer commits an unfair business practice under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).
If only singles were protected by a similar dating-disclosure law, it might put an end to a lot of unwanted catfishing and painful heartbreak.
So whether you’re seeking a new friend or a new ride, stay safe online. Be vigilant. Get Educated.
To learn more about curbsiders, truthful advertising and mandatory disclosures, visit OMVIC.ca.