Informal Dispute Resolution
Prior to any compliance action the VSA strives to create opportunities for consumers and dealers to resolve problems informally. This informal problem solving can happen anytime during the complaint and investigation process. The recommendation to consumers is to try to resolve their problem with the Sales Manager, General Manager or Dealer Principal using the Resolving Disputes Fact Sheet as a guide. Note: Even when a consumer tells the VSA they are satisfied with an informal resolution, the VSA will review the business practices that lead to the complaint.
In a hearing, the Registrar of Motor Dealers acts as a one person administrative tribunal and makes quasi-judicial decisions. It is very similar to a court proceeding. The Registrar receives and weighs evidence to determine if there was non-compliance with the law. Where the law permits, the Registrar may order a remedy to address a consumer’s loss resulting from the non-compliance. The outcome of a hearing is known as a Registrar’s Decision. See the Registrar’s Rules of Practice and Procedure here.
A voluntary acknowledgement by a motor dealer or a salesperson that they have violated the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (section 154). The terms of an undertaking may include one or many terms and conditions, such as a promise to:
- Stop a particular type of conduct
- Repay a consumer for any proven losses
- Pay for investigation costs
- Pay an administrative penalty, and
- Abide by the law
The voluntary nature of the undertaking generally indicates that a motor dealer or salesperson has recognized they have made an error and are willing to take satisfactory steps to fix that error. To ensure compliance with an undertaking, it may be filed in the B.C. Supreme Court. When it is filed, the undertaking is deemed an order of that Court (section 157).
The Motor Dealer Customer Compensation Fund provides compensation primarily to consumers who lost money because a motor dealer went out of business or has failed to meet certain legal obligations. The money in the Fund comes from annual dealer contributions. Only some types of losses are covered by the Fund. Since its inception in 1995, the Fund Board has adjudicated over 1,000 claims, of which 57% were approved for compensation. Over $2.9 million has been paid to consumers over the last 19 years.
A decision of the Registrar of Motor Dealers may be reviewed by the B.C. Supreme Court when a person petitions that court to conduct a judicial review. A judicial review is not the same as an appeal and the court does not re-hear or re-try the case. A court conducting a judicial review looks to see if the Registrar followed the legislation and complied with the common law principles of procedural fairness and natural justice when conducting a hearing or making a decision. The court may also review the investigation process in much the same way. Generally, if a court finds some error, the court “quashes” (cancels) the decision of the Registrar and orders the matter be reheard by the Registrar. Directions the court believes are appropriate may be provided to the Registrar.
While every effort is made to obtain voluntary compliance before applying for a court order, the Registrar may apply to the court to carry out statutory duties such as:
- Stopping an unlicensed person (curber) from operating after a demand to stop
- Enforcing an undertaking, compliance order or notice of administrative penalty
- Appointing a receiver-manager to take temporary or full control of a motor dealer
- Enforcing a property freeze order
- Conducting a search of a person’s residence
- Stopping an improper lawsuit brought against the Registrar or the VSA