B.C. judge dismisses realtor's claim dealership misled him about Ford Mustang

The Mustang logo is seen in this file photo. (diamant24/Shutterstock.com)

A Vancouver Island real estate agent has lost his bid to recover a deposit he made on a new Ford Mustang that he intended to offer as a prize in a year-long contest in 2020.

Duncan provincial court judge J.P. MacCarthy dismissed the claim brought by Peter Andrew Sterczyk against DFS Motors Ltd., which operates as Island Ford.

According to MacCarthy's June 21 decision, Sterczyk conceived of the contest – which he dubbed "Win My Ride" – in 2019. The idea was to promote his business by entering anyone who completed a real estate transaction with him into a draw, which would give them a chance to win his vehicle as the prize.

"His plan was to acquire a new car with dealer financing in December 2019, use it during 2020 and then draw the winner on Dec. 31, 2020, pay off the financing balance owing and transfer title to the winner in January 2021," MacCarthy's decision reads.

Sterczyk reached out to Island Ford because it was offering its own promotion at the time, called "Mustangs at Cost," which promised deep discounts on new Ford Mustangs.

The real estate agent contacted Island Ford salesperson Abraham Lee, who eventually sent him a window sticker for a vehicle at another dealership in the Lower Mainland, which Lee proposed to acquire for Sterczyk to purchase, according to the decision.

Based on the window sticker, Lee and Sterczyk agreed on an offer to purchase, and Sterczyk made a $2,500 deposit by credit card, MacCarthy's decision reads.

Though Lee did not tell Sterczyk which dealership the vehicle would be coming from, the window sticker included the Vehicle Identification Number, which allowed Sterczyk to look up the vehicle and find it advertised on the website of Mainland Ford in Surrey.

Sterczyk noticed that the vehicle listed on the website had more features than the window sticker listed, something MacCarthy concludes in his decision that neither Lee "nor any other representative" of Island Ford knew at the time Lee accepted Sterczyk's deposit.

As a result of the upgrades that had been made to the vehicle at Mainland Ford, Lee informed Sterczyk that it was no longer available at the $30,000 price point that had been agreed upon, and began looking for alternative vehicles, according to the court decision.

Sterczyk rejected three other vehicles with fewer features, arguing that the agreement he made was to purchase the specific vehicle with the VIN identified on the original window sticker.

Eventually, he took Island Ford to court over the issue.

Sterczyk's claim sought the return of his deposit, as well as damages for the alleged breach of contract, which his lawyer described in a demand letter to Island Ford as a "bait and switch."

After summarizing Sterczyk's argument that he thought he was entitled to purchase the specific Mustang with its unexpected upgrades at the agreed-upon price, MacCarthy rejected it.

"With the greatest of respect, I find that such reasoning has no merit," he writes in his decision.

"I am quite certain that the Claimant would not be adopting that reasoning (and rightly so) if it turned out to be that the features and accessories described in the vehicle’s original window sticker had actually been removed from the vehicle or were of lesser quality or fewer in number."

"In other words, on the basis of this faulty reasoning, although the vehicle being purchased by claimant would be of lesser quality or value than described in the vehicle’s original window sticker, the VIN would be entirely decisive of the subject matter of the negotiations or any resulting contract. In my view, the parties did not reach such an agreement."

Instead, the judge concluded, the agreement the parties reached involved the purchase of a "stock" Mustang for $30,000. Thus, the dealership's efforts to find a suitable replacement vehicle constituted a fulfillment of its obligations under the contract, rather than a "bait and switch" or other deceptive sales tactic.

"It was the claimant who wrongly and unreasonably rejected those alternative Mustangs and caused the breach," MacCarthy writes.

The judge dismissed Sterczyk's claim in its entirety and awarded some court costs to Island Ford.