A PRIMER ON THE ONTARIO MOTOR VEHICLE INDUSTRY COUNCIL
As you may be aware, if you are a registered dealer of vehicles in Ontario, you are governed by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council (“OMVIC”). OMVIC is a public interest body that licenses and regulates motor vehicles in Ontario. OMVIC isn’t simply an investigate body, it also administers and enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act on behalf of the Minister of Consumer Services.
OMVIC is specifically involved with ensuring that dealers and sales-people are registered, regularly inspecting dealerships, maintaining a complaint line for consumers, and conducting investigations into consumer complaints.
OMVIC’s inspectors conduct inspections of registered dealers. Under the MVDA, OMVIC inspectors have broad rights. They have the right of access to all business books and records. These inspections are conducted to ensure that all vehicle dealers in Ontario are conducting business in compliance with the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (“MVDA”). They keep comprehensive records of all completed inspections and, as necessary, they may take follow-up action if necessary.
While OMVIC inspectors are given broad powers to enforce the MVDA, they are also bound by a stringent code of professionalism. They must conduct themselves with honesty and integrity and maintain a high level of confidentiality. This means that inspectors must treat anything they see or hear as confidential, unless the performance of their legal duties requires otherwise. They must also conduct all investigations with a high degree of respect and objectivity.
If an inspector ever enters your premises, they should introduce themselves and OMVIC. They should also identify whatever statutory authority they are operating under and provide general information regarding the inspection or enforcement process.
When an inspector is investigating premises, they are looking to ensure compliance with the “Code of Ethics.” The “Code of Ethics” is essentially a list of foundational principles that motor vehicle dealers are expected to adhere.
If the “Code of Ethics” is breached, then the disciplinary process will be engaged and the Chair of the Discipline committee will appoint an independent impartial panel to consider any allegations that are contained in a notice of complaint. The committee will be composed of peer dealers and sales people, as well as at least one “arms-length” member of the public.
During the hearing, the tribunal will give the dealer or salesperson being investigated the opportunity to submit relevant documentation and oral evidence which supports their position. At this stage, it may be important to consult a lawyer, as you would be permitted representation during the hearing. A lawyer can help to make sure proper procedures and policies are followed, and that the tribunal process is fair and impartial.
There are a variety of disciplinary measures the committee may impose such as a requirement for dealers and/or salespeople to take educational courses, requiring dealers to fund educational courses for their salespeople, and imposing a fine to a maximum of $25,000 and imposing costs. If an unfavorable decision is delivered by the Discipline Committee, there is an appeals process through the Appeals Committee.
INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS
As I noted earlier, OMVIC’s investigators are appointed and derive their powers from several pieces of legislation including the MVDA and the Provincial Offences Act. Inspectors may lay charges under the MVDA for any breaches of the “Code of Ethics” or for other breaches under the MVDA.
Results of investigations will not be published. However, if the investigation escalates into a prosecution and a conviction occurs, then it becomes public record.
LICENSE APPEAL TRIBUNAL
The License Appeal Tribunal (“LAT”) is an adjudication agency. It was created as a result of the government consolidating four appeal boards. On top of its adjudicative role, the LAT is also mandated to hear appeals concerning matters relating to the Ministry of Consumer Services.
An individual can file an Appeal to the LAT after they have received a decision from the Discipline Committee. To file an appeal, an individual would need to file a Notice of Appeal, pay a fee, provide a copy of the decision and provide complete reasons for the appeal. The appeal must be filed within 15 days of receiving a decision from the Discipline Committee.
During the appeal hearing, an individual is permitted representation. At this stage, it is important to have a lawyer who will protect all of your procedural rights and make sure the hearing is fair and impartial.
LEGAL TIPS FOR MOTOR VEHICLE DEALERS AND SALES-PEOPLE
Criminal charges or family court arrears may disqualify your registration with OMVIC.
All Notice’s of Appeal must be filed in a timely manner. Extensions are rare.
Keeping complete and accurate accounting on all transactions is crucial to maintaining your registration in good standing.
Engaging in “curb-siding” or trading vehicles without proper registration under the Act may disqualify a sales person or dealer with OMVIC.
Any liens encumbering vehicles which are traded in must be paid in full under the Act.
Registrants are permitted representation during any hearing. If you become involved in hearings before an OMVIC committee, be sure to consult with legal counsel.