MEDICINE HAT, AB – It’s been a longtime complaint of Alberta’s auto industry, dealers using shady tactics to hide information on repairs and accidents.
Over the years, Vossler Mechanical Inc. owner Greg Vossler has seen some auto shops make a habit of charging big money for minor repairs.
“If you come in and you're expecting one thing and you get charged another, that creates a lot of friction,” said Vossler. “And, that's uncomfortable for everybody.”
Now, change is on the way in Alberta to make the process of buying or repairing a used vehicle more transparent.
Customers purchasing a used vehicle will be entitled to complete reports documenting the history of the vehicle, including any major accidents it had been involved in.
As for people booking their vehicles in for repairs, auto shops must provide their estimates in writing if asked and must receive consent before beginning work on any repairs.
Vossler said they’ve been asking for permission before starting work for years and added it’s about time the industry follows suit.
“A lot of times we'll do a verbal estimate and get approval that way,” he said. “If it's just a matter of putting it on paper, it's really no different.”
Howard Baigent has spent 31 years in the business and is nearing retirement while owning Baigent’s Auto Sales.
He said they were one of the first businesses in Medicine Hat to supply complete vehicle history reports to customers dating back two decades.
“You have to supply a CarProof, the vehicle history, a mechanical inspection,” said Baigent. “And here, we inspect everything, we also fix it, then we give three months warranty. Everyone should be doing that.”
Another big change this week will see the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council become a public agency, which will see public members join their board and increase their oversight.
In the meantime, manager of communications and education Cathy Housdorff said they’ll continue to regulate these businesses to make sure they follow the new regulations.
“We would work closely with the business, making sure that they understand the new requirements and that they're complying with them,” said Housdorff. “But, there are a number of administrative penalties and we could suspend the license of a business.”
Medicine Hat is no stranger to these suspensions, as AMVIC suspended the license of Autos R Less back in July for allegedly selling vehicles with outstanding liens.
Baigent said it’s difficult to earn the confidence of customers during these type of incidents, as it puts a black mark on the entire used car dealership community.
“It makes you look bad, if one car lot is bad... it's like a bad apple,” he said. “They think everybody is bad and we're not.”
Vossler meanwhile is hopeful these changes will give customers more trust in both his shop and the industry as a whole.
“It is a negative perception and we would like to make it more of a positive perception,” he said. “And this, I hope is putting that in the right direction for us.
The new provincial auto regulations will take effect on Wednesday.
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