Consumer Complaints

Consumer Complaints about Motor Dealers and Broker Agents

Before you begin: The VSA investigates consumer complaints based on the legislation and the policies available on the VSA website.

The VSA’s authority comes from the Motor Dealer Act and related regulations, and certain parts of the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act. The VSA can investigate complaints about violations of these laws. To find out more see the Consumer Protection Facts “The VSA’s Legislative Authority” available at this link.

If you would like to complain about a motor dealer or a broker agent – know your options:

  • The first option is requesting the VSA’s assistance to resolve a dispute you have with a licensed motor dealer or broker agent. To begin this process, complete and submit the VSA Consumer Complaint Form. This fact sheet provides information on how the VSA handles complaints about licensed motor dealers and broker agents
  • The second option is to only report non-compliant activity by a licensed motor dealer or broker agent by completing and submitting the VSA Report a Concern or Issue Form

What complaints about motor dealers and broker agents can the VSA investigate:

The VSA may act on your complaint only if all of the following requirements are met:

  • Your complaint involves a motor vehicle. To find out more, click here for the Consumer Protection facts about “Vehicles under the Jurisdiction of the VSA”
  • Your transaction was with a business or individual licensed for consumer transactions by the VSA. To find out if the business or individual is licensed by the VSA for consumer transactions – as a dealer, salesperson or broker agent – use the VSA online licensee registry
  • It was a consumer transaction. In law, a consumer transaction is when an individual buys, leases or consigns a vehicle primarily for personal use, not for purposes intended to generate income. To find out more, use the  “Vehicle Use Defined” Consumer Protection Facts available at this link

What to expect after you make a formal complaint:

  1. The review of your complaint will begin when a completed VSA Consumer Complaint Form and all supporting documents are received at the VSA. If your complaint application is not complete, we will contact you about what is still needed.
  2. Once your complaint application is complete, it will be reviewed to see if the VSA has jurisdiction. That is, does your complaint meet the three criteria mentioned above? If, for example, you purchased the vehicle primarily for business use, the VSA will not be able to investigate your complaint and will refer you to other organizations that may help you. To find out more, read Consumer Protection Facts “Where to go for help”
  3. We will also determine if the VSA has grounds to investigate your complaint. That is, the VSA may act only within the scope of authority provided by the legislation mentioned above. Therefore, the VSA can investigate only those complaints that include allegations of the contravention of that same legislation
  4. If your complaint passes the reviews described in Sections 2 and 3, it will be sent to the dealer/broker agent for their response and you will be notified that an investigation has started. If your complaint does not pass one of the reviews, you will be notified in writing about the reason why your complaint will not be investigated
  5. The dealer/broker agent will be given 10 business days to provide the VSA a response to your complaint. If a response to your complaint is received by the VSA, the response will be shared with you.
  6. The scope and length of the investigation will vary based on the complexity of your complaint. The length of the investigation will also vary based on available VSA staff resources and how responsive you, the dealer, the broker agent, any witnesses and outside agencies are when requests are made. Some files are investigated and closed in as little as 60 days, but most take 120 days or more to investigate, resolve or close
  7. During the investigation, the VSA will contact you as needed. You can contact the VSA Consumer Services to enquire regarding the status of your complaint at any time. Please note that it will not speed up the investigation
  8. Sometimes a formal hearing before the Registrar of Motor Dealers is necessary to resolve a complaint. As a result, it may take a few months to get a date before the Registrar. The Registrar tries to provide a decision within 90 days after the hearing, but it may take up to 180 days, depending on work load
  9. The VSA will notify you in writing about the outcome of your complaint and will provide reasons for the decision. Your options, if you disagree with the results of the investigation, will also be provided

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why can the VSA not investigate my complaint if it does not have jurisdiction?
A: The Registrar may only use the Registrar’s statutory powers to investigate complaints within his or her jurisdiction. It is illegal to use those powers for purposes outside of the Registrar’s jurisdiction.

Q: Why is the dealer/broker agent allowed so much time to respond to my complaint?
A: A legal principal called “procedural fairness” requires that a person who is alleged to have done something wrong be allowed time to respond to those allegations. This includes time to gather documents to support the response.

Q: What other agencies may the VSA have to consult?
A: Each case is different. The VSA may speak with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, ICBC, and the Ministry of Finance. We may also request documents from financial institutions, warranty providers and others. It depends on the nature of the complaint.

Q: Why can’t the VSA try to help me settle my contract dispute with a dealer/broker agent?
A: The legislation the VSA administers is very specific legislation to regulate the motor dealer industry. The legislation is confined to transactions where there may have been deceptive or unconscionable conduct by the dealer/broker agent, or they failed to provide certain disclosures to a consumer. Other disputes are left to the alternative dispute resolution and court systems to deal with.

Q: I made a mistake in purchasing a vehicle. Why can’t the VSA help me return the vehicle?
A: In B.C., there is no general legal right to return a vehicle (or any other product) once you have taken possession of the vehicle. People are used to the generous store return policies of large store chains. However, that is a store policy and not the law.

Q: I was notified that my file is closed because my complaint application is incomplete. Can it be reopened?
A: Yes. If a complaint application is incomplete, we will send a letter specifying the required missing documents. You will then have 30 days to send us those documents. If we do not hear from you within 30 days, your file will be closed. However, if you do obtain the documents after the due date, you can contact the VSA and request to reopen your file. Please note that due to the limitation periods set by law, delays may affect the eligibility of your complaint. It is recommended that you act quickly and, if needed, speak to a lawyer about your rights. For more information, visit Consumer Protection Facts “Legal Resources”.

If you have any questions, please contact VSA Consumer Services.

NOTE: This is to provide general information and is not intended to be legal advice.