What to do when screwed by a dealership

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Let me be the first to say that I feel your pain, and you’re not alone. It sucks. Take a deep breath. Chances are if your province or state has good consumer protections laws, you can unwind the deal, and you will be just fine.

This was the case for a friend-of-a-friend that I helped out a few years ago. And funny, or not-so-funny enough, it was a cliche. She actually was an immigrant single mother of three leaving an abusive situation. She needed a used car. And she got screwed. Here’s how it went down:

  • She saw a quality used vehicle advertised for around $12,000 at the dealership.

  • She went to the dealership and asked about the quality used vehicle.

  • The dealership sold her a crappy $16,000 used vehicle that had been in prior accidents.

  • The dealership wore her down with over $5000 of over-priced add-ons.

  • The sales manager only told her about the 2 prior accidents right before she signed.

  • She broke down in tears, from the stress and exhaustion of being grinded at the dealership for 3 hours.

  • Then she signed the deal.

When my friend told me about this case, it sounded like it was made up - I mean… seriously. But because it was real, and I confirmed this with the customer, all we had to do was apply the consumer protection legislation in Alberta to unwind the deal. The sales manager balked, but when you lay out the legislation in front of them, its pretty tough to argue. The deal got reversed, and the customer got the original vehicle she wanted - without the expensive add-ons. (She also could have filed a pretty serious complaint with the industry regulator.)

Many people don’t know that if a dealership engages in an unfair practice, the consumer has up to 1 year to completely reverse the transaction, including the interest paid on financing. Not everyone’s situation is the same. If you have any questions about a recent dealership purchase that you don’t think was quite right, write to us at memberships@whysker.com.

Peter Downing