Another customer has come forward claiming a Winnipeg car dealership owes her money following a CBC News story about a Brandon couple who claim to be owed more than $28,000.
Warren and Mary Houle told CBC News their story about a trade-in deal with SRT Auto earlier this month.
They were quoted a trade-in value of $28,157 for their 2013 van, which they understood would be applied to the outstanding loan for that vehicle.
But in a statement of claim with Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench, the couple says the used car lot didn't use the proceeds of the trade-in to settle the loan.
Since then, another customer has come forward to say she is owed money by the same dealership.
Paula Richard traded in a 2009 Pontiac Torrent last May for a used 2015 Jeep Compass. She was promised $11,000 for the Torrent — well above the Canadian Black Book value. It was enough money to cover the loan on the Pontiac, but she says the money never made it to the bank.
She said she was desperate for a solution and felt she was left with no option but to close her bank account and let the loan default because she was stuck paying for both the Pontiac and the new vehicle.
"It's very frustrating," she told CBC News in a phone interview from her home in Camperville, Man., about 315 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg. "I just wish they would do their part and pay."
SRT Auto owner Hugh Cummins told CBC News that he wasn't aware of anyone besides the Houles having problems with his dealership.
Richard said a month after leaving her 2009 vehicle at the dealership, a payment for it came out of her bank account.
"'We'll settle it, we'll settle it,' that's all he kept saying," Richard said after calling Cummins, adding that she was reimbursed by SRT Auto on three occasions for payments that she shouldn't have made.
Ten months after she traded in the Pontiac, she says a sheriff's officer showed up at her workplace in nearby Pine Creek, Man., to repossess the vehicle — a vehicle she no longer had.
"I was wondering what was going on," she said. "Usually they don't go looking for you unless it's something serious."
She explained the situation, but still received a "bad repo" mark on her credit report and worries that will affect her ability to borrow money in the future.
Inflated trade-in values
George Iny, director of the Automobile Protection Association — which lobbies for auto safety standards and promotes consumer information — said some dealers use over-valuing trades as a sales tactic.
"What you do is inflate the trade-in value, then you pack two loans on to the price of the next vehicle," Iny said in a phone interview from Montreal.
Customers are assured the dealership will apply the value of the vehicle they're trading in to pay out the loan for that vehicle.
But the vehicle being traded in is over-valued in order to cover the loan. To make up for that lost money, the dealership inflates the cost of the new vehicle being purchased, in a way adding the dealer's losses from the trade-in on the old vehicle to the purchase price of the new one.
Iny reviewed two bills of sale provided by CBC News. Both the Houles' and Richard's bills of sale show the value of their trade-in listed as equal to the lien payable on their initial loans.
He said in both cases, the purchase prices appear to be inflated.
"Clearly when you see that they were told, 'We'll get you out of the old car, we'll pay off the loan fully,' and by over-allowing ... maybe they don't fully understand that that amount is being added to the new vehicle."
He thinks the numbers in the sales don't add up, saying "$11,000 is much more than the market value for a Torrent ... the brand doesn't exist anymore."
More oversight needed
Iny said the best course of action in this situation is to contact Manitoba's Consumer Protection Office. Cases like this, he said, are signs that current rules and regulations need to be better enforced.
"I think the root of the issue is the level of oversight. Regulators just don't get out there. They don't put themselves in the shoes of one of the customers they regulate," Iny said.
"They have to get out of their offices and go and either suspend the licences of people that do this or shut them down," he added. "It's very serious."
A spokesperson for Manitoba's Consumer Protection Office told CBC News that the office doesn't comment on complaints filed against a business unless "enforcement action" has been taken. No enforcement action has been taken against SRT Auto, the spokesperson said.
Manitoba Public Insurance, which issues dealer permits, hasn't listed any sanctions against the dealership.
Meanwhile, Richard doesn't know where her Torrent is now, but said all she wants is either to get it back, or get the money for her original loan.
"If anything, I think they should give us our vehicle," she said. "I'll never be able to do anything again because of what they did [to my credit]."
Even so, she said SRT Auto called her recently asking if she wanted to trade in her Jeep.
She's now considering going to the RCMP to file a complaint.
Iny believes Richard will unfortunately be left paying the price of the trade-in for some time to come.
"She's paying dearly for her Compass, and today a Compass has almost no resale value," he said. "She's stuck with a pretty lousy vehicle before it's paid off."