A hearing before the Registrar may be called when any or all of the following occurs:
- A consumer and a dealer cannot resolve their dispute with the assistance of VSA staff or by using alternative dispute resolution
- A licensee asks the Registrar to review and remove any conditions or restrictions placed on their licence
- Any alleged non-compliance or conduct is of such a concern to the public interest that a licensee may face the suspension or cancellation of their licence
- A person applying for a licence or renewal of their licence needs to be reviewed by the Registrar.
Hearings before the Registrar are open to the public. If the VSA, consumer, dealer or salesperson want to have a closed hearing, they must apply to the Registrar to have the hearing closed. The test to close a hearing from the public is very high. With little exception, trying to avoid embarrassment or keep one’s name from the public are not sufficient reasons to close a hearing.
In a hearing, the Registrar acts as a one person administrative tribunal and makes what are called quasi-judicial decisions. The hearing is very similar to a court proceeding. Like a court, the Registrar receives and weighs evidence to determine if there was non-compliance with the law. A typical hearing will see proceed as such:
- The Registrar hears the allegations from the VSA staff
- The Registrar hears the testimony of witnesses from the VSA and the consumer complainant if there is one
- The dealer and the salesperson may ask the witnesses any questions
- The dealer and the salesperson can then provide their evidence and call their witnesses
- The dealer and the salesperson and their witnesses may be asked questions by the VSA staff or the complainant if there is one
- The VSA staff and the dealer and/or salesperson then make any closing remarks to the Registrar
- During the hearing, the Registrar may ask questions
The Registrar most often “reserves” his or her decision and will provide a written decision at a later date. In simple licensing cases, the Registrar may issue an oral decision.
- When addressing the registrar during the hearing, you say Mister Registrar or Madame Registrar
- All witnesses are required to make an affirmation to tell the truth. This is like testimony under oath. If a person lies while giving testimony, they can be held in contempt of court by the BC Supreme Court or prosecuted for perjury.
- Once a witness has given evidence, they can ask the Registrar to be excused as a witness and if granted, they can leave. Otherwise, witnesses are to remain close to the hearing room in case they have to be recalled as a witness.
- Witnesses are asked to wait outside of the hearing until called to give their evidence. This is to protect the integrity of the evidence.
- Witnesses should not talk among themselves before giving evidence and while the hearing is still going on. This is to protect the integrity of the evidence of witnesses yet to testify.
The complexity of the case, if there are other decisions waiting to be made, and the concern for the public interest dictate how long it will take for a decision to be made. The goal is to have written decisions within 90 days, but complex cases can take 180 days or more.
If it is determined that a salesperson or motor dealer breached portions of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act or failed to comply with an undertaking or compliance order, the Registrar may:
- Assess an administrative penalty of up to $50,000 on a corporation or $5,000 on an individual
- Require the motor dealer or salesperson to pay a consumer damages or unwind a transaction (if legally applicable)
- Require the motor dealer or salesperson to abide by the law or take other steps
- Order the motor dealer or salesperson to pay the Authority’s investigation and hearing costs.
At a hearing under the Motor Dealer Act, the Registrar may cancel or suspend the registration or licence of a motor dealer or salesperson for a period of time.