Car salesmen finally held accountable for their unconscionable actions

I’m thrilled to see that justice is being brought to predatory salesmen who engage in illegal and unconscionable sales practices. They need to be held accountable for their unethical actions. Time to clean up this industry!

Originally posted by thestar.com (The Toronto Star)

by: Tony Van Alphen

A car salesman who sold a vehicle to an elderly widow for about $24,000 more than she expected has become one of the first auto dealership employees in Ontario to be jailed under current consumer protection legislation.

Naheed Ali Ramji was sentenced in a Belleville court Tuesday to seven months behind bars for “unconscionable representation” and “unfair practice” under the Ontario Consumer Protection Act, and falsifying information under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act.

“Mr. Ramji targeted female customers who he deemed gullible to take advantage of,” said Justice of the Peace Deanne Chapelle. “He used and took advantage of them both. He used unfair practice by making unconscionable representation to both.”

Chapelle convicted Ramji last November after hearing evidence from six witnesses including customers Doreen Waites, 80, and Barbara Fournier, in her mid-fifties, regarding transactions at Bob Clute Automart and Bob Clute Motors in Belleville in 2010.

“It’s his own fault,” Waites said after hearing about Ramji’s sentence. “We had dealt with him before and he was fine. We never thought he would try to do this to us. I was dumbfounded.”

Court heard Ramji called Waites from Bob Clute Automart about the pending expiry of a lease and she signed what she believed was another one for a new Pontiac model at a cost of about $18,825.

Waites moved and took the car to Michael Boyer Chevrolet Cadillac Buick GMC in Pickering for a small repair and informed the dealer about her unhappiness with the lease. Staff checked the paperwork and found she had actually bought the car and financed it for eight years at a total cost of $43,065.

The dealer alerted the sector’s regulator, the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, which investigated and eventually laid charges. The Clute dealership immediately unwound the deal, took the car back and later fired Ramji.

In a second transaction, Fournier contacted Bob Clute Motors and indicated she wanted to buy out a pickup truck whose lease had nearly ended. Evidence revealed Ramji told her that to consummate the deal, she would have to “put up” $5,000 in cash for General Motors to finance the purchase at a whopping 19 per cent despite an excellent credit history. Ramji described the cash payment as “shut-up money.”

Fournier’s husband discovered the terms and contacted the dealer who found the dealership had not received the money. A dealership probe revealed the manager’s signature on the purchase contract was not original and had been forged. The dealer returned the money to Fournier.

Although auto sales people have been jailed after convictions under the Criminal Code, the Ramji case is the first in the province involving the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council and consumer protection legislation, said council executive director Carl Compton.

The consumer ministry may have successfully prosecuted auto sales people under previous legislation, he said.

“It appears the courts in Ontario are assigning a higher level of importance to offences involving consumer harm than we’ve traditionally seen in the past,” added Compton. “This is good news for consumers and good news for legitimate businesses.”

In 2010, the regulator charged a Mazda dealership in Orangeville and two senior employees for “engaging in unfair practices by making an unconscionable representation” under the act after the sale of a car to a woman for more than $25,000 above its value.

The regulator is still pursuing the case which could mean a maximum fine of $250,000 for the dealership and penalties of $100,000 plus jail time of up to two years if a court convicts the employees.

Mazda Canada quickly pulled the dealer’s franchise agreement for breaching the automaker’s business practices in that case and other incidents. The store is now under new ownership.

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