Alberta, Bill 203 - What You Need to Know

On March 17, 2016 an Alberta MLA, Jon Carson brought forward a private member bill to the Alberta Legislature. Bill 203 seeks to amend the current Alberta Fair Trading Act to enhance motor vehicle repair pricing protection for consumers. Bill 203 was drafted and brought forward without any public consultation or any engagement with stakeholder associations. Despite this fact, Bill 203 nonetheless passed first reading. AIA has learned through its research that this Bill already exists, almost verbatim, in Ontario and Manitoba and this is from where the language of the Alberta Bill was taken.

AIA and its members support laws and regulations that protect consumers. We are however concerned with the lack of consultation that appears to have gone into the design of Bill 203 and the consequences it places on our members and companies at all levels in the aftermarket. AIA has communicated to MLA Carson that good policy is designed to avoid unintended consequences and that best occurs through meaningful consultation. Simply because a bill exists in another province does not mean that it should be copied as-is and certainly not without any meaningful consultation with industry stakeholders.

AIA has communicated that although other provinces have similar rules to what is being proposed, Alberta is unique in that the province has a regulatory body for automotive service and repair, Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council (AMVIC). AMVIC is the independent delegated authority that is accountable to the Alberta Government through a delegation agreement with the Minister of Service Alberta. AMVIC monitors and mediates vehicle repair services and has helped foster a more trust in the industry which directly leads to consumer confidence. Automotive repair businesses must be licensed by AMVIC in Alberta and this provides consumers with a level of protection already above other provinces. For this reason, Bill 203 is a duplication of rules that is unnecessary. AMVIC statistics prove that the system works with approximately  3,783,360 invoices annually in the sector and only 80 investigations being opened. AIA is communicating to MLA Carson that Bill 203 is a solution seeking a problem. Bill 203, as drafted, is outdated and based on old scenarios for vehicle repairs.

Beyond the fact that Bill 203 is unnecessary, AIA’s two key concerns are as follows:

  • Estimates and Estimate Fees

    • AIA generally supports consumer protection legislation but, that legislation and associated regulations must support the realities of today’s service and repair industry. Since Ontario drafted their legislation and even in the three years since Manitoba amended theirs, there have been incredible advancements in vehicle technology. With this new technology in vehicles has come new terminology and phrases that are used by the industry. One such phrase is ‘diagnostics’. This is a loaded word with many different meanings to different people. Bill 203 must better define what is meant by ‘diagnostic time’. In many cases, the time it takes to diagnose an issue with a vehicle is billable work which if course a consumer is advised of and agrees to. Quite often, only when this work is completed can an estimate be drawn up and in many cases that estimate will be provided for free. As a illustrative example, everyone goes to the dentist to pay $150 for an cleaning and inspection which then arms the dentist with what he/she needs to provide an estimate of other work that may need to be completed. In that case, the dentist surely has earned the $150 for the cleaning and inspection they do as it was a service initially agreed to with the consumer. The complexities in vehicle repair have been moving extraordinarily quickly in the last few years and given this, MLA Carson must address this element if Bill 203 is to still move forward.

    • On fees for estimates, AIA has communicated that whether to charge a fee or not should be left to individual shop owners as a competitive advantage piece provided of course that the consumer is advised of and accepts the fee upfront.

  • Warranty

    • AIA again recognizes that the wording for the Warranty section of Bill 203 as drafted, has been copied primarily from the Ontario legislation with two added parts form the Manitoba legislation. AIA has highlighted to MLA Carson that Alberta is a different part of the country that Ontario in and in many ways, warrants its own review to determine, based on its economical and regional differences, what the threshold should be for mandated warranty periods such as that referred to in Parts (1) to (4).

    • With regards to Part (8) of 57.11 [Warranty], AIA respectfully submits that this part goes beyond the scope of consumer legislation and therefore must be removed. Part (8) specifically speaks to controlling a business dealing between a shop and a part manufacturer. Including this requirement oversteps the intended scope of the Fair Trading Act.

Next steps:

  • Bill 203 is expected to be debated on Monday, April 11th in Alberta Legislature.

  • The Wild Rose Part Opposition Critic is expected to call for the Bill to be recalled as unnecessary.

  • AIA is giving Manufacturers, Distributors and ASPs a voice on the issue and will continue to provide updates to members in the coming days.