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B.C. woman promised ‘no leaks’ in Facebook car ad, but sued after oil spilled everywhere

Seller says ‘buyer beware’ rules should apply
A B.C. woman sued after buying a car off of a Facebook ad. (Dreamstime/TNS)

The old adage of “buyer beware” – which means people making purchases do so at their own risk – was challenged by a B.C. woman who bought a car after reading an ad on Facebook.

More and more people are buying large items based on ads they see posted on Facebook – even vehicles. A March 17 B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal decision offers up a transaction that should be educational for anyone considering buying something from a Facebook ad.

The ad promised “no leaks” in the vehicle, but a day after buying it, the car did just that with oil steadily leaking. She took the seller to the CRT for the money she paid a mechanic to fix the leak ($2,093.85), plus more than $400 for the time she spent not having a vehicle.

The key for the CRT was if the seller was negligent or fraudulent or misleading in their ad.

The woman bought a 2009 Toyota Matrix after reading a Facebook ad that included the phrases “engine and transmission runs perfectly” and “no leaks.”

“The applicant says the day after the sale, they saw the car’s oil level was low,” reads the CRT decision. “They say they took the car to two mechanics and were told the oil level had dropped because of an oil leak from a broken timing cover.”

The buyer then contacted the seller.

“The parties agree they communicated about the oil leak after the sale,” said the CRT decision. “The parties also agree the respondent offered to take the car to a mechanic. The respondent says this proves the applicant knew there was not a major problem, and they did not attend the mechanic in order to place ‘blame’ on the respondent. However, the parties’ submissions do not establish that they reached any agreements on using the respondent’s mechanic, how they would address the oil leak, or whether the leak existed before the sale, so I find nothing turns on their post-sale discussions.

“The respondent says because the car was 13 years old, they did not provide any guarantees about it. They say that the applicant agreed to all terms and conditions, though they do not specify what terms or conditions those were. The respondent also says it is the buyer’s responsibility to check everything before purchase, effectively arguing the principle of ‘buyer beware’ as a defense to the applicant’s claim.”

But the CRT disagreed with that argument based on the wording of the Facebook ad and the promises that it made.

“In the Facebook ad, the respondent also said the Matrix had ‘NO LEAKS,’” says the CRT decision. “While the respondent submits the car may not have been handled properly after purchase, implying the leak happened after the sale. I find this speculative, and given the timing of the leak, unlikely. The applicant provided written evidence of a cracked timing cover only one week after the sale, and I accept the applicant’s undisputed statement about discovering the low oil level the day after purchase. Given how quickly the applicant discovered the oil issue, and the relative speed with which they had it diagnosed by a mechanic, I find the Matrix likely had an oil leak at the time of sale. This means the Facebook ad was inaccurate.

“The respondent made a firm declarative statement to induce potential buyers to purchase the car. I find doing so was a breach of the standard of ‘reasonable care’ not to mislead a purchaser – in this case, the applicant. I find the applicant relied on the clear, unambiguous, and specific statement about leaks in deciding to buy the Matrix. So, I find the applicant is entitled to damages for the oil leak.”

The buyer was awarded the cost to have the vehicle repaired, but dismissed the claim of costs for her while she was without a vehicle.

READ MORE: This ‘prudish’ Victoria strata sued to stop owner from living with boyfriend

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Chris Campbell

About the Author: Chris Campbell

I joined the Victoria News hub as an editor in 2023, bringing with me over 30 years of experience from community newspapers in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley
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