By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Update, 11/10/2021: Owasco RV Centre has reached out to RVtravel.com regarding this story. Management tells us that they’ve been in contact with the RVer mentioned in this story, and that “miscommunication” led to misunderstanding of his situation with the company. They also made it clear that the customer has not been charged any storage fees. We’ve reached out to the RVer for further information.
It’s one of those nightmare scenarios. Your brand-new RV turns up with serious problems. You send it back to the dealer for repairs. Months pass, and it still isn’t fixed. To add insult to injury, the dealer lets you know that you’re on the hook for the “RV storage fees” – which began running even before the repairs were made.
We wish we could just say this was somebody’s nightmare that they woke up from. After wiping away that cold sweat, they could sigh in relief and say, “It was only a dream!” But for RVtravel.com reader David R., he can’t wake up from the nightmare – it’s a real-life scenario.
Seeds of a nightmare
David bought a new RV from Owasco RV Centre in Bowmanville, Ontario. When making his delivery walk-through, David noticed a few problems that needed attention – repairs and adjustments. Like everyone says, these are the kinds of things that should have been caught by the factory, but, hey, it happens. Owasco’s service folks told David they’d set the problems right and deliver the rig to him. That was a nice gesture, as David lives two hours from Owasco’s facility.
When the “repaired” rig turned up, it didn’t take long to find a few more problems. Side panels from the bed detached. The refrigerator wouldn’t refrigerate. On opening the oven door, the handle fell off. The skylight cracked. Needless to say, David wasn’t particularly happy. He made the two-hour trip back to Bowmanville and turned the rig over to Owasco for more repair work.
That was four months ago. He still hasn’t got his “new” RV back. And, David tells us, Owasco is charging him $10 a day “RV storage fees” with the clock running from the day he took the rig back. Yes, he’s welcome to come and get the rig and take it home anytime. David appealed to us for help.
We reached out to Owasco RV Centre – making several telephone calls. The first thing we noticed was that once you get past the receptionist, things get a bit dicey. The sales manager’s phone goes to voice mail. The service department doesn’t answer the phone. Instead, a voice mail warns you that Owasco is in their “busy season,” and it could be a couple of days before they return a call. The general manager’s voice mail is polite, but off-putting. After several days passed without getting a call back, we fired off an e-mail asking for help.
General Manager Amy Verwey sent us an apologetic email, asking for more detail. When we laid out David’s concerns, we got a quick response. “Due to privacy issues,” returned Amy, “we are unable to share any customer details with you.” She did say she saw “no complaint on file,” and that we should simply have David reach out to Owasco.
We pressed on, in generic terms. Did Owasco really charge customers RV storage fees? We could understand a storage fee if a job was completed and the customer dallied in picking up the repaired unit. But fees while the customer waited for the company to do the work? “We do offer storage to our clients as a convenience,” Verwey wrote. “At times there are situations where clients choose to leave their units with us for an extended period of time versus transporting it. Whether it be dropping off early for a service appointment, storing for a few days after a repair completion until its convenient for them to pick up, or storing with us between repairs if there is a long wait for part(s) arrival.”
Is he really on the hook for RV storage fees?
It’s hard to imagine “If there is a long wait for part(s) arrival” that a dealer would deign to hit an RVer with storage fees. In any event, if David’s situation is as bleak as it seems, he’s already up to $1,200 in storage fees – and counting.
Or is he? We ran the situation past Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Laura Boback, an agency representative, writes: “A repair shop cannot charge for tow and storage services that the consumer did not authorize, including storage fees in advance.” She adds that a customer must be given a written estimate of repair charges. Here’s where things get a bit sticky: Since David’s repair work should have been under warranty, then there’s no way he should have to pay anything for the repairs. He tells us that he never signed any paperwork with the dealership.
Since Owasco RV won’t talk to us about David’s case, we’re stymied. We did give David information on how he can file a complaint with Consumer Protection Ontario if he feels that Owasco has violated his rights. We hope that Owasco will get the work done soon, and turn the rig back to him with no charges attached. If not, he may end up with a longer ordeal involving government intervention.
Takeaways for all of us
What’s the takeaway? For RVers, it would seem reasonable to expect several things. First, that you’ll get your rig back in a reasonable amount of time. Second, that as long as the rig is waiting for the dealer to do the job, there shouldn’t be “RV storage fees” levied. After all, it’s not the customer’s fault the job isn’t being done.
But it’s far from a perfect world. If you have to take your rig in for service, be it in or out of warranty, ASK questions. Find out if the dealer is planning on levying charges for storage. How much? How are the charges calculated – that is, when do they start? You may find it less expensive in the long run to go to a higher-priced shop that doesn’t burden the RVer with storage charges.
And, by all means, don’t be pressured to sign something that you haven’t read completely (and understand), or, worse still, to sign a repair order that’s blank.
Got a problem with an RV dealer or support service? Let us know. Fill out the form below, and add “Consumer Problem” in the subject line. We’ll do what we can to help.