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Buyer Beware: Protect yourself when buying farm equipment

Two farmers are cautioning others after their ag show purchases left them in the lurch

Two Manitoba farmers are warning others after they say an equipment maker took their money and didn’t deliver their purchases — in some cases, for years.

“You think you’re getting a deal, and then this happens,” said Patricia Dooley.

Patricia and husband Thomas Dooley, who produce beef and grain near Dauphin, ordered the 16-foot scraper from Leons Manufacturing Company during Ag Days in Brandon, late January of last year.

She said they were told they’d have the machine “when the snow was gone,” but the months ticked by, and the scraper didn’t arrive.

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Dooley’s husband began calling Leons every week and she says he was given every excuse in the book — the scraper hadn’t been made, they were waiting for the delivery driver to come, the delivery driver had been fired.

“Just on and on,” she said.

Around the beginning of July, Leons sent them a rental scraper to tide them over. The Dooleys intended to use the scraper they purchased to maintain their corrals and a road on their property.

They said the manufacturer told them they’d have their scraper by Dec. 20. But that deadline also passed.

“And what really ticked me off, there, just after Christmas my husband got all these advertisements for Boxing Day special prices for their equipment,” Dooley said, “and we still haven’t got what we’ve bought.”

When the Co-operator contacted Leons, production manager Peter Kataria said they had been “a little busy here and there” and were behind. He said the company had spent “a lot of money” to provide the Dooleys with the rental scraper.

Kataria told the Co-operator the equipment would arrive the following Friday, January 10 — or at latest, Monday, Jan. 13.

The scraper was finally delivered Jan. 13.

Minnedosa farmer Kevin Boyd took to an online forum to warn others of his own experience with the company.

Boyd told the Co-operator he ordered a scraper from Leons in September 2017, also at a trade show. He was told he’d receive the scraper in two weeks. When he spoke to the Co-operator earlier this month, he had still not received it.

Boyd said he called Leons repeatedly, each time receiving a different story.

“They just never followed through with what they said,” Boyd said.

He got his lawyer involved. When that didn’t work, he asked for a refund. When that didn’t come either, Boyd went online.

“Just a warning to anyone thinking of dealing with them, be very careful,” he wrote on the online forum.

Boyd continued to spread the word via the internet and reached out to others he thought might be able to intervene. January 13 of this year he finally got his money back, and announced his disbelief on the forum.

“I’m not calling it quits, I feel the need to stop them and help others in any way I can,” he wrote.

Yet another farm is taking a similar complaint to court.

A numbered company registered to a La Broquerie couple filed a lawsuit against Leons in November.

According to court documents, the company purchased a “Model 425 horizontal spreader” from Leons in April 2019 with an agreement to receive the spreader within four weeks.

Both the couple and their legal representative declined to comment.

At the time of writing, Leons has not filed a statement of defence. Peter Kataria declined to comment, saying the matter was with Leons legal team. These accusations have not been proven in court.

As for Dooley, she said her faith has been shaken.

“I wouldn’t trust another company with my money now without getting what I paid for,” she said.

“For me it’s over,” she said. “But it is something the farmers have to be careful with.”

Protect yourself

“The old saying, ‘buyer beware’ is always good advice,” said Anders Bruun, a lawyer with extensive experience in agriculture and agribusiness law.

“There is always a risk when farmers pay the purchase price or deposits on equipment to be delivered at a later date,” said Bruun.

He advised farmers to reduce risk by negotiating the smallest possible deposit, insisting on clear terms (such as the delivery date) and, if possible, checking the reputation of the manufacturer or dealer.

For instance, a Google search of Leons turns up a 1-1/2-star rating from 19 reviews. While a couple of comments are positive, multiple reviewers cite long waits for equipment and poor customer service.

The company also has an ‘F’ rating on the Better Business Bureau’s website.

Bruun said there is some protection for farmers under the Farm Machinery and Equipment Act in Manitoba. Saskatchewan has similar legislation.

The act applies to sales and leases of new farm machinery and equipment, but doesn’t include a farm truck, ATV or similar, according to a fact sheet from the Farm Industry Board.

The act requires dealers to provide the purchaser with a copy of the signed contract including the serial number of the equipment, its value, sale terms including the amounts and dates of payment, and the delivery and waiver agreement.

The fact sheet states that if the dealer can’t meet the delivery date agreed upon, it must give written notice at least five days before that date. If this happens, the buyer is free to cancel the contract.

If the purchaser accepts the late delivery date, the dealer must provide comparable equipment or pay for a rental — such as Leons did for the Dooleys.

If dealers don’t carry out the contract, a farmer can complain to the Manitoba Farm Industry Board, which must investigate “as expeditiously as possible,” according to the Farm Machinery and Equipment Act.

The act allows the board to take away the dealer’s licence if the results of an investigation warrant it.

“Purchasers should understand that the board’s powers in such matters are limited,” a provincial spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “In some cases, a purchaser may have to direct the issue to the courts if dealing with an unco-operative dealer or manufacturer.”

Farmers can contact the Farm Industry Board if they have questions, the spokesperson said.


The Farm Machinery and Equipment Act

The purpose of this law is to provide Manitoba farmers with warranty and repossession protection on farm machinery and equipment purchased or leased in Manitoba.

The act sets out:

  • The minimum terms of the warranty you should receive from your dealer when buying new farm machinery or equipment;
  • The fact that repair parts will be readily available;
  • The way in which repossession procedures are to be carried out;
  • Conditions for the negotiations of disputes/disagreements concerning the purchase, warranty or repossession of farm machinery and other farm equipment, when necessary.

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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