Where does AMVIC get its powers of investigation?
AMVIC has a range of powers under the Consumer Protection Act (formally the Fair Trading Act) and Traffic Safety Act that include the right to:
- Enter a business premises for the purposes of inspection.
- Enter a business premises during an investigation with the permission of the business
- To make copies of any records or documents.
- To request copies of records or documents.
- To file charges under the Consumer Protection Act (formally the Fair Trading Act) and Criminal Code.
- To issue tickets under the Traffic Safety Act.
What circumstances lead to an AMVIC investigation?
Investigations are usually opened as the result of consumer complaints. The majority of consumer complaints are initially filtered through AMVIC’s Consumer Services Office (the “CSO”).
- Some of these complaints may be resolved simply through a business responding with information to the CSO.
- Many complaints are resolved after a business owner is made aware of the consumer’s concerns and after the business owner has had an opportunity to work through the concerns directly with the consumer.
- Depending on the nature of the complaint, it may be further reviewed by AMVIC to consider whether or not there has been a violation of the Consumer Protection Act (formally the Fair Trading Act), the Automotive Business Regulation or other associated regulations and whether further investigation is required.
Other investigations may result from matters coming to AMVIC’s attention in the course of their regular inspections or from third parties.
What if a business refuses to cooperate with an investigation?
AMVIC can seek an order from the Court of Queen’s Bench to require the business to cooperate, allow access, or provide documentation.
What process do AMVIC Investigators follow?
AMVIC does not require its investigators to follow one specific process in carrying out their investigations. All investigations are different.
As a matter of general policy, investigators are expected to:
- Focus on evidence that is pertinent and specific to the suspected contravention of the Consumer Protection Act (formally the Fair Trading Act) or regulations.
- Follow and evaluate the evidence in a neutral, unbiased manner.
- Objectively evaluate the evidence as they proceed.
As noted above, Peace Officers are under an independent duty to carry out their role in an appropriate fashion. AMVIC administration does not interfere with investigations.
What types of enforcement actions are available to AMVIC and how does AMVIC decide which enforcement action to pursue?
AMVIC’s enforcement goals include:
- Changing the behaviour of non-compliant persons.
- Eliminating financial gain or benefit from non-compliance.
- Ensuring enforcement action is proportionate to the nature of the non-compliance and the harm caused by the non-compliance.
- Remedying the harm and providing deterrence.
How is “appropriate” enforcement action determined?
A number of factors are weighed in determining appropriate enforcement action such as:
- The seriousness of the offence.
- The harm or risk of harm.
- The number and frequency of potential breaches.
- Previous compliance issues.
- The willingness of a business to address the contravention.
- The steps taken by the business to address the issue.
- The potential impact on consumers and the industry as a whole.
Compliance by automotive industry members is the desired outcome when dealing with consumers or industry concerns.
If matters cannot be appropriately addressed through an informal process and there are potential repercussions to a business, AMVIC can engage in a more formal process. This process can lead to charges under the Consumer Protection Act (formally the Fair Trading Act) or regulations and/or to administrative action being taken by AMVIC.
Investigators may also issue a warning or violation ticket on their own authority as a Peace Officer. Once an AMVIC licensed business is charged with an offence under the Consumer Protection Act (formally the Fair Trading Act), the process is governed by the Provincial Offences Procedure Act and the Criminal Code, as are any rights of appeal.
What opportunity does an AMVIC licensed business have to provide facts and information to AMVIC about concerns that have been raised?
AMVIC collects and assesses information relating to all aspects of a matter from the outset. An AMVIC licensed business has the opportunity to provide information and documentation at any stage in the process. That information can be provided orally, in writing or through the production of relevant records or material.
When AMVIC licensed businesses are given notice of a potential Consumer Protection Act (formally the Fair Trading Act) breach, they are afforded the protection to which they are entitled under the law. Those businesses have the right to consult a lawyer at any stage in the investigation process.
During the course of an administrative review, AMVIC will provide a business with notice of its concerns as well as an opportunity for the business to submit a written response or to attend the review.