By Dylan O'Hagan
Calgary, Alberta -- April 26, 2016 -- Bill 203—a proposed Alberta private members bill to replace the current Fair Trade Act—has received its second reading through the Alberta Legislative Assembly. Alberta MLA Jon Carson introduced Bill 203 and received a mixed reception from other MLAs.
Carson opened the floor by outlining what he hoped Bill 203 will accomplish. He pointed to a quotation in an article on collisionrepairmag.com, in which the Alberta Motor Association’s Senior Analyst, Scott Wilson, praised the bill as positive step towards better consumer protection legislation. See “Alberta MLA proposes auto repair consumer protection bill” for more on this.
“I’d like to point to a quote from an article in Collision Repair magazine that I think really emphasizes what I’m trying to accomplish with this bill,” said Carson. Reading from the article, Carson said, “The move to pass bill 203 is a step in the right direction, according to [AMA] Senior Policy Analyst, Scott Wilson. ‘It’s an appropriate direction and echoes some of the provisions in other jurisdictions, which is what I think they were trying to achieve,’ said Wilson. ‘I think anytime you can provide a consumer with a little more certainty around a transaction at a collision repair facility, it’s a good thing.’”
Carson added Bill 203 will establish guidelines to increase transparency and accountability for both consumers and business owners. No one should be in a position to be taken advantage of, said Carson.
“At the end of the day, this legislation simply will allow consumers and automotive repair shops to come to a written agreement on the estimated cost of work before it’s started,” he said. “Before a repair shop does any work, the business must offer to give the client a written estimate for the total work expected, and the client must sign off on the estimate before work will begin.”
However, not everyone thinks the bill is necessary. There were a number of opposed MLA’s including Calgary-West MLA, Mike Ellis. Ellis was a licensed mechanic before taking public office and spent over five years in the trade. During the second reading, Ellis argued that Bill 203 was redundant. He outlined how he believes current consumer protective legislation is not only adequate, but better protects consumers than the newly proposed Bill. After the second reading, Collision Repair magazine caught up with Ellis to get a better understanding of his views on Bill 203 and the current consumer protective legislation in Alberta.
“The first thing that jumped out at me, if you look at the statistics and you look at the numbers provided by collision repair shops and the Alberta Motor Dealers Association, we had 5,000,000 services in 2015 and we only had 45 consumer complaints. None of which ever lead to any charges or fines,” he said.
Ellis says that, statistically speaking, there simply isn’t much of a need for new consumer protection legislation. Ellis said he attributes this to the work of the current regulatory body in the province, the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC).
AMVIV is Alberta’s automotive industry regulator. The organization was incorporated under the Alberta Societies Act as a not-for-profit organization to help administer motor vehicle industry regulations as outlined in the Fair Trading Act on February 12, 1999.
Ellis continued and said if Carson—who proposed Bill 203—had done more research and met with more industry stakeholders, he would have found they are satisfied with the current consumer protection statutes.
“Frankly, it's unnecessary and that's why it's important when you’re in a position to put Bills forward that you must consult with stakeholders,” said Ellis. “If you consult with the stakeholders such as the Motor Vehicle Association and the Independent Automotive Association, you would have found the legislation—which is modeled after Ontario's —is unnecessary. We already have good legislation in place to take care of consumer complaints in the automotive industry.”
However, not every MLA at the second reading agreed with Mr. Ellis to stand against Bill 203. Graham Sucha, the honourable member from Calgary-Shaw, spoke in favour of Bill 203 and used a personal story to help explain the importance of proper consumer protective legislation.
“Subsequently my grandmother did not know a lot about cars because my grandfather always dealt with them,” said Sucha. “There was one time when my grandmother took her car in for routine service, and sadly it was one of those bad shops, one of the very few in Calgary.”
In the end, at the suggestion of Nathan Cooper, MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, it was determined that the proposed Bill should be sent to a committee of industry stakeholders for further input and analysis. Keep an eye on collisionrepairmag.com for updates as they become available.