Edmonton man’s vehicle held hostage over payment dispute between subcontractors

A man who paid more than $1,800 to have his SUV moved from Scarborough, Ont., to Edmonton in mid-November is still waiting for it to arrive, thanks to a dispute between two subcontractors he did not hire.

Anoop Manoj Kumar told CBC News that he and his family moved from Ontario to Alberta in late October. His wife had found a job in Edmonton and they were drawn to Alberta’s affordability, he said.

After contacting three companies, Manoj Kumar said he hired Fyre Logistics to move his 2009 Mazda Tribute to his new province. The Montreal company had quoted him eight to 16 days for transit time and he paid $1,874 for the service using his credit card.

On Nov. 9, an employee from Mana Auto, an Oakville-based company subcontracted by Fyre Logistics, called him to arrange vehicle pickup. Manoj Kumar said a friend handed over the SUV on the evening of Nov. 14 and the same employee confirmed it would be delivered by the first week of December.

More than 60 days later, Manoj Kumar is still without the vehicle and has learned it is being held hostage over a payment dispute between Mana Auto and its subcontractor, G’S Auto Hauling.

Fyre Logistics has told CBC News it will pursue legal action to recover their customer’s vehicle. The other two companies are accusing each other of not paying outstanding invoices.

As temperatures in Alberta plunged below –30 C in December, Manoj Kumar was riding the bus to buy groceries and collect medicine for his 10-month-old son.

His wife, who feeds their son before leaving for work, has been paying between $15 and $20 to commute by Uber every morning because the two-bus journey from their apartment near Northgate Center would take an hour.

Manoj Kumar has complained to all of the companies involved, spoken with Edmonton police, filed a complaint with Alberta’s Consumer Investigation Unit and contacted a lawyer, but still has no idea when his vehicle will be delivered.

“I feel really helpless,” he said.

demand letters

Fred Giguére, Fyre Logistics’s account manager, told CBC News in a text message that the company was really concerned about this situation and was prioritizing helping Manoj Kumar recover his SUV.

He said the company sent a demand letter to Mana Auto and G’S Auto Hauling last week.

The letter said Fyre Logistics had contracted Mana Auto for the move and learned on Jan. 10 that G’S Auto Hauling — an Alberta company — had possessed Manoj Kumar’s vehicle for several weeks.

“Through our co-contractor, we have learned that you refuse to answer or disclose the location of the vehicle belonging to Anoop Manoj Kumar under any valid pretext,” the letter said.

The letter said the company will take legal action if the vehicle’s location is not released within 10 days.

Patrizia Piscopo, G’S Auto Hauling’s office manager, said her company picked up the Mazda from Mana Auto in Ontario and took it to Alberta.

She said the company is holding the vehicle in a storage yard in Edmonton and refuses to release it because Mana Auto owes G’S Auto Hauling $15,750 for jobs since August. She would not disclose the vehicle’s location.

“This is the only weapon we have,” she said.

She said the vehicle should not have been brokered multiple times without the customer’s consent and when G’S Auto Hauling accepted the job, the company did not know who its owner was.

“The owner, to us, was Mana Auto,” she said.

A man in a parking lot stands beside a dark-colored small SUV.
Anoop Manoj Kumar has been waiting for more than 60 days to be reunited with his 2009 Mazda Tribute. He paid a company to move the SUV from his former home in Scarborough, Ont., to his new home in Edmonton in November. (Submitted by Anoop Manoj Kumar)

She said Mana Auto had promised but failed to deliver payment for outstanding invoices, so for the first time in the company’s history, it was withholding a vehicle.

“It’s very unfortunate for the customer, it really is, and I understand that,” Piscopo said.

A dispatcher for Mana Auto told CBC News both companies owe each other money. The dispatcher claimed G’S Auto Hauling owes Mana Auto $8,500. He said the Alberta company should credit that amount and deliver the vehicle in order to receive payment.

Piscopo said G’S Auto Hauling has already credited Mana Auto for all jobs.

Giguére said Fyre Logistics is prepared to take legal action to recover the SUV for its customers.

“If Mana Auto owes them money for other shipping or not, it doesn’t matter to us, because we have fully paid this car invoice to our co-contractor Mana Auto,” he said in an email.

Consumer complaints

A spokesperson for the ministry of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction said the government wouldn’t comment on specific cases but provided general information about consumer complaints.

The Consumer Investigations Unit received nine complaints about automotive moving companies last year, 11 in 2021 and 6 in 2020.

The spokesperson said consumers can search online for contraventions of Alberta’s consumer protection laws and suggested consumers find out if a company is a member of an industry association or the Better Business Bureau.

Ontario’s Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery shared similar tips and said it had not recorded any complaints concerning Mana Auto.

Andy Thorndyke, who owns Thorsons Marketing Associates Canada — a car carrier in the Greater Toronto Area — said there are three main types of car transportation services in the industry: rail service, open car service and enclosed car service.

Vehicles in an “open” carrier are stacked on top of each other and exposed to the elements while those in enclosed carriers are stacked inside trailers.

Thorndyke said his company, an enclosed carrier, moves vehicles using its own trucks 98 per cent of the time but many other companies, known as brokers, sell car transportation services to customers and rely on a network of other carriers.

“Everybody thinks that they can get into the game and move a car across the country, but very few of them have their own equipment,” he said.

Thorndyke said vehicle moves can become “very messy” and increasingly risky when multiple subcontractors are involved.

He said there is no carrier industry association consumers can call in Canada but suggested vehicle owners ask companies if they move cars using their own equipment. He also suggests people read online reviews and call their local dealership for recommendations on reputable companies.

Manoj Kumar told CBC News he had no idea that G’S Auto Hauling had obtained his vehicle and brought it to Alberta.

He said he’s prepared to take the matter to court and wants compensation for his expenses over the past two months.

“Hopefully I can get the car back,” he said.

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