The disgraceful reputation car dealers have is tenacious. And it is not the practices of the HGregoire company, revealed by investigations by the Financial Markets Authority (AMF), that will restore the image of this industry.
Posted yesterday at 6:30 am
“HGregoire is the freedom to choose with confidence,” the Quebec used car giant’s website promises.
This is not exactly what AMF discovered when collecting customer testimonials.
Instead, it accuses HGregoire of “undue pressure” and “deceptive tactics” to encourage consumers to obtain insurance. In some cases, collateral was allegedly sold without any explanation of its nature. And even without the knowledge of customers. It’s so cheeky!
Thus, in mid-July, 31 guilty pleas were sent to HGregoire and employees for a series of conducts that contravene the Law relating to the distribution of financial products and services. The documents are now public. Each relates to a customer’s experience.
In total, the Saint-Eustache company received fines totaling $314,850, including the usual fees and contributions. This is the highest amount ever imposed by the AMF on a car dealer.
H Gregoire pleaded not guilty. Therefore, a judge of the Quebec Court will have to decide.
The AMF requires, in 29 cases out of 31, sanctions well above the minimum amount provided for in the law. Their supporting documents: “number of victims”, “abuse of trust and manipulation”, “greed (motivation)”, “intention of the crime”, “damage caused to the market”, “number of insurance coverages sold to the same person”.
The words hit hard.
No HGregoire executive would grant me an interview. In a written statement, the retailer says it takes “all allegations of this nature very seriously.” He adds: “the practices mentioned in the fault documents go against the company’s philosophy”.
For Martine Quirion, there is no question that HGregoire will have to pay the $17,520 guilty plea resulting from her testimony.
“When the AMF called me and I checked my contract, that’s when I realized I had been paying for life insurance for two years! she told me. This $2,600 bill, hidden in her payments, “is the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Because also, her 2013 Sante Fe is “a lemon” that she ended up in the garage a month after the purchase and many times since then. Fortunately, by calling the Industrial Alliance, she was able to end the policy.
HGregoire also sold Francesca life and disability insurance one afternoon in January, without telling her. ” I was tired. I trusted myself telling myself I was HGregoire. I was a babysitter. I signed without looking too hard. I’m embarrassed. Price: $1,880, for a $7,800 Kia Rio.
The next morning, at 9 am, the lady went back to see the sales team. She explained that the insurance was mandatory, otherwise the credit would not pass. She didn’t believe him, given her financial situation. And anyway, she already had that kind of insurance at work. Finally it was an employee who came to her rescue in secret. She suggested that he call the insurance company in Alberta to cancel everything. The check she received from her did not make her forget her bad experience.
Francesca was right, lenders don’t usually apply for life, health, and job loss insurance. And when this is the case, one can shop around by contacting a broker. This allows much better rates to be obtained, as shown by a study by the AMF, since the employees of the concessionaires pocket juicy commissions.
It’s simple: dealers cannot force a customer to take out the insurance they offer.
The AMF assures that it has been doing everything possible since 2009 to clean up the automobile industry by multiplying opinions and regulations. “If we can sanction practices to stop them, we do it”, swears Jean-François Fortin, general director of market control. Obviously, we cannot put all companies in the same boat, let us insist on that. But there is still a long way to go.
In addition, the AMF recommends that consumers always be “vigilant” and “ask questions”. The problem is that insurance and extended warranties are complex products that intimidate many. Therefore, you need to know what to watch out for, even when buying a new car.
Think of that Volkswagen customer I told you about in July. After driving a few miles in his new car, he discovered that it was not equipped with all the options provided for in the contract. No “emergency brake assist” or “blind spot detection with traffic warning”. How could he have known to ask the salesman if his new Taos had all the parts on it?
Certainly, it is important to be an informed consumer. But what a burden to always be on guard…
Here, as in other parts of the world, we make jokes about car salesmen and caricature them. But it is clear that they also sometimes laugh at consumers.