Dealers can’t add fees to advertised price; campaign seeks to raise awareness
“Why not take a picture of the dealer’s advertisement the next time you’re shopping for a car and take it with you to your dealer? Because the dealer should not charge more than that advertised price.”
That statement is part of an ad from a consumer awareness campaign from the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, or OMVIC. The campaign’s purpose is to make consumers aware that if a dealer advertises a price for a new or used vehicle, that price must include all fees and charges the dealer intends to collect.
Only 47 percent of Ontario’s car buyers are aware of the rule, according to OMVIC.
The exception to the rule is HST and licensing (and safety standards certificate if the vehicle is advertised as unfit) and for options the consumer has explicitly agreed to. Licensing refers to the actual cost of vehicle registration and plates. It cannot include extra fees that the dealer adds, OMVIC said.
Some dealers, however, still add fees to their advertised prices, OMVIC said. That is the reason that the regulator has re-launched its province-wide consumer awareness campaign.
“All-in price advertising has been the law in Ontario for nine years now,” OMVIC chief executive officer and interim registrar John Carmichael said in a news release. “We want to ensure consumers understand that their dealer should be providing this level of transparency.”
OMVIC provided more information on helping consumers understand all-in price advertising. The council said an advertisement is an inducement to buy or lease a vehicle. This would include, but is not limited to the following ads:
—In print (newspapers, magazines, etc.)
—On the internet (dealer site, online marketplace, etc.)
—On social media
—On radio or TV
—On signs (including those in or on a vehicle)
Examples of fees or charges that a dealer must include in an advertised price are:
—Administration fee or fees
—Government levies (air tax, etc.)
—Safety and e-test (unless the ad contains a mandated "Unfit Vehicle" or "As-Is Vehicle" statement)
If a dealership intends to charge for products or services that it has pre-installed on a vehicle, those costs must also be included in the advertised price. This includes, but is not limited to:
—Nitrogen/tire protection package/locking wheel nuts
—Security or theft deterrent products/services (etching, etc.)
The council notes that while dealers must include all fees in advertised prices, they must itemize the fees individually on the contract.The council added that dealer fees such as freight or administration fees are not illegal and will still be itemized on a bill of sale — they just must be included in a dealer’s advertised price.
OMVIC said it does not regulate vehicle manufacturers. Manufacturer-placed advertisements are not required to comply with the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act. All-in pricing is not required in manufacturer ads. Some manufacturers, however, voluntarily comply with the all-in pricing rule and provide transparency to consumers, which OMVIC said is commendable.
OMVIC’s All-in Price Advertising campaign will run online, on TV and on radio. To help reach new Canadians who might not be familiar with Ontario's consumer protection laws, online ads are also running in French, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Russian.
Empowering consumers is the purpose of the campaign’s messaging, Carmichael said.
“If they have a copy of the advertisement and understand they have a right to all-in pricing, it will help consumers protect themselves should they encounter non-compliant advertising,” he said.