How did Black Friday — the day of mega-amazing colossal unbelievable can’t-be-beat blow-out sales signifying the unofficial start of the Christmas shopping season — get its name? Some would say Black Friday marks the point many retailers turn a profit for the year, going from being “in the red” to being “in the black.” The more cynical among us might argue it’s consumerism run amok and a black mark on our society. Though the origins of the name may be debatable, the lure of Black Friday is undeniable.
Viral videos of frenzied shoppers pushing, pepper-spraying, even trampling fellow bargain hunters — all in the name of a “great deal", are commonplace this time of year. And while great deals can be hard to pass up, they don’t warrant snatching products from the hands of a small child or assaulting other shoppers as has been shown in news reports. And no matter how great the deal may seem, savvy consumers won’t allow themselves to get swept up in the emotion of the moment, mainly because not all transactions are created equal in terms of a consumer’s ability to rescind the deal, that is, return the product.
Yes, many retailers have generous return policies allowing refunds or exchanges, even on sale merchandise. But in Ontario there is no law requiring it — each retailer is free to set its own rules; and to the uninformed, this may cause confusion. Now, this may not be a big deal if the purchase is a $40 pair of jeans, but it can be a huge deal if the product is a vehicle. “Eighty-five percent of consumers are either misinformed or uninformed when it comes to cancelling a vehicle- purchase agreement,” explained Terry O’Keefe, Director of Communications and Education for Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator, OMVIC. “Many think they can sign a contract to buy a car and then shop around to see if another dealer will beat the price. That can be a costly game to play because a signed vehicle-purchase contract is legal and binding.”
Every contract for the sale of a vehicle in Ontario must legally contain a clause, in 14-point bold font, next to the purchaser’s signature, stating: “SALES FINAL.”
So if a consumer tries to back out of a car purchase, the dealer is generally left with three options:
1) Return the deposit and cancel the contract as a gesture of goodwill.
2) Sue the consumer to get them to complete the sale.
3) Cancel the contract but keep part (or all) of the deposit equal to the costs the dealer will incur by allowing the customer to back out of the purchase. These can include costs associated with the dealers finance carrying costs, additional advertising fees and/or re-detailing or re-inspecting a car for a future buyer.
“Disputes involving contract cancellation are unfortunately common; in fact, they’re the second most common consumer complaint OMVIC receives,” said O’Keefe. “And while we will work with a consumer and dealer to try to find an amicable solution to any dispute, it’s crucial consumers understand that OMVIC cannot compel a dealer to cancel a contract nor can we order a dealer to return money. Only the courts have that authority.”
Buying a car can be an emotionally-charged endeavour and while it’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of a too-good-to-pass-up deal, a vehicle-purchase contract should only be signed when a consumer has done his/her research and is certain he/she wants to commit to the purchase.