November 19, 2008
CAMVAP is for lemons.
You’ve heard of lemons. Have you ever driven one? In reality, the vehicles produced today don’t often fit the “lemon” tag, but there are sometimes problems with individual vehicles that are difficult to repair, or involve a defect in materials. Usually these problems are quickly resolved at the dealership level and contacting them is still the first and best course of action, but when problems escalate it is nice to know there is CAMVAP standing behind you.
CAMVAP, the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan, is a national program that you can use to resolve a dispute with a vehicle manufacturer. Made up of representatives from the automobile industry, provincial governments and consumers, CAMVAP provides a fair and impartial hearing where an arbitrator can make a final and binding decision. Most auto manufacturers in Canada participate in the program, except BMW, Mitsubishi, Maserati, Ferrari and Lotus. Participating manufacturers support the program because it benefits both the manufacturer and the consumer by providing a fair resolution in a reasonable time. From start to finish, the CAMVAP process takes an average of only 70 days.
To qualify for the CAMVAP process, you must first try to resolve the problem using the manufacturer’s dispute resolution process. Your vehicle must be a passenger car, light duty truck, SUV, van or multi-purpose passenger vehicle purchased or leased in Canada in the current, or previous four, model year(s) and must not have travelled more than 160,000 km.
There are some reasons you may not be able to use the CAMVAP process. Examples include disputes involving personal injury or third property damage claims, punitive or incidental damage claims, a claim that is already in the courts, vehicles that are used primarily for business, motorhomes, or disputes with a dealer rather than the manufacturer. All the information, details and forms are available on the CAMVAP website, or you can contact your Provincial administrator by phone at 1-800-207-0685.
If you feel you cannot resolve your problems at the dealership level or through the manufacturer, then CAMVAP is available to help. There are no fees to use CAMVAP, but you may incur some costs to prepare and present your claim, such as expenses for witnesses or lawyers, although a lawyer isn’t necessary, and usually, the manufacturer doesn’t use one. After submitting the claim form, the arbitrator will contact you about a date and hearing location as close to your home as possible. Before the hearing, you must disclose to the manufacturer the documents and information you intend to use to prove your case. The manufacturer must also disclose their documents to you.
The hearing is less formal than a court setting but follows a similar process. You, the claimant, make the first presentation and may ask questions of the manufacturer. The same procedure is followed by the manufacturer’s representative. Then you have the opportunity to respond to anything new that is brought up.
You may bring witnesses if appropriate and should have evidence or records supporting your claim. This can include a list of dates and times that you have made contact with the dealer and manufacturer. You also need to bring your vehicle to the hearing so that it can be looked at or you can demonstrate the problem you have while it is taken for a test drive, with all parties on board if feasibly possible. Both you and the manufacturer may then summarize the case.
The arbitrator may or may not be an automotive expert, but can ask to have a technical inspection of the vehicle by an independent specialist to help understand the case. Then, within 14 days, the arbitrator will be contacting the parties with a final and binding decision.
Few of us experience problems with our vehicles that can’t be resolved at the dealership level and fewer have problems that cannot be resolved by the manufacturer. But if you have hit a dead-end and don’t know where to turn to next, CAMVAP is the answer. This quick, economical and fair process for resolving disputes protects owners of most newer vehicles in Canada.