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NDP fights sticker shock for autos

Bill outlaws false advertising by dealers

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MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Premier Greg Selinger talks with Beatrice Dyce of the Consumer Protection Office at the announcement Monday.

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The NDP wants to make it crystal clear that the sticker price you see for a new car is the price you pay.

The government introduced legislation Monday that would mean a penalty for any new- or used-car dealer who uses false advertising when selling vehicles.

It would require dealers to include all fees, charges, levies and taxes in advertisements, unless the ad indicates PST and GST are not included.

"This legislation means the price you see is the price you pay," Premier Greg Selinger said at a news conference at a Nairn Avenue auto dealership.

The legislation would also require dealers to disclose the model year of the vehicle and whether it's used.

"That sounds elegantly simple, but it's something that has needed to be put in consumer-protection law for a long time," Selinger said.

Selinger said many car-buyers have been confused about what final price they would pay when they walked into an auto dealer.

"This legislation makes it easier for them to know what that price is before they make that decision," he said. "They don't have go through a bunch of additional calculations to know what the price is going to be before they write the cheque."

Beatrice Dyce, acting directing of the province's Consumer Protection Office, said under the new legislation, her office would have the authority to issue compliance orders against offenders and impose administrative penalties of up to $5,000.

Dyce said her office will check compliance by monitoring newspaper advertising and customer complaints.

Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have similar legislation. Manitoba's will likely be in force next summer.

John Carey, past president of the Manitoba Motor Dealers Association, said the legislation raises advertising standards for the entire industry.

Carey said the association worked with the government in crafting the legislation.

Mike Mager, president and CEO of CAA Manitoba, said the legislation gives consumers the ability to become better educated when buying a vehicle.

For example, he said some dealers include a roadside assistance fee in the final price, a fee that should be voluntary.

"There's an example where it's not all transparent and open and clear," he said, estimating in some cases various hidden fees can add more than $1,000 to a vehicle purchase.

The proposed legislation is in keeping with what the NDP has done in other consumer-protection measures over the past year, including clearer language for cellphone contracts, a proposed mandatory warranty on new homes, restrictions on payday loan companies and rules requiring car repair shops to be more upfront about the work they're doing.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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