The Consumer Protection Act
Canadian laws do a lot to protect consumers. Whether that’s ensuring a safe and competitive marketplace or labelling and packaging products correctly, it’s all to protect Canadian consumers.
More narrowly, Ontario sets out much of its consumer protection laws in the Consumer Protection Act. Other Ontario consumer protection legislation covers particular industries and include:
● Collections and Debt Settlement Services Act;
● Consumer Reporting Act;
● Payday Loans Act;
● Bailiffs Act; and,
● Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act.
This article focuses on Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act. It goes over what Ontario’s consumer protection laws do, who they apply to, and how the Act may affect you, as a consumer, and your contract with a business that you’re purchasing a product or service from. Our goal is to at least partially answer what consumer protection laws are available in Ontario.
What is the Consumer Protection Act and Who Does it Apply to?
The Consumer Protection Act regulates the relationship between regular consumers and businesses. The Act’s goal is to prevent a company from taking advantage of you with complex contracts or fine prints. Its mission is to make agreements transparent and make consumers less vulnerable.
The Act also lays out remedies to compensate a consumer if a business has violated the law. Consumers that face a company using unfair practices can also file a complaint to Consumer Protection Ontario. You can also make a complaint to industry regulators such as the Real Estate Council of Ontario, Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, etcetera.
As the name implies, the Consumer Protection Act only applies to consumers and not businesses and corporations. Additionally, your rights as a consumer also cannot be denied through a contract. So, if you sign a contract that states you waive your rights under the Consumer Protection Act, then that contract is void.
How Does the Consumer Protection Act Affect a Contract that you’ve Signed?
Cancel within the Contract’s Cooling-off period
A cooling-off period is a specific number of days that a consumer who had entered into an agreement with a business can cancel that contract without consequence or reason. Not all business-to-consumer contracts have a cooling-off period, however. It’s only the type of businesses set out by the Consumer Protection Act and the other consumer protection laws in Ontario. You can cancel the contract during the cooling-off period through a formal letter, which can be sent through registered mail, email, or fax. Businesses may also have an alternative way to process your request, such as a phone call.
The number of days involved in the cooling-off period depends on the type of agreement you signed. For example, timeshare agreements have a cooling-off period of 10 days after receiving a written copy of your contract. Many other types of contracts follow this 10-day period.
Ensure that the Terms are Free of Misrepresentation
The Consumer Protection Act lays out several unfair practices, including false, misleading, or deceptive representations. So, advertising the performance of a product or service or its uses, ingredients, benefits, qualities, etcetera must not be a false, misleading, or deceptive representation. The Act also doesn’t limit what it considers false, misleading, or deceptive representation, so the courts can decide something novel to be included in the definition.
If a business does engage in false, misleading, or deceptive representation, the Act considers them to have engaged in unfair practices, and this could result in remedies such as rescinding the agreement.
Disclosure of Information
When you sign a contract, it’s essential to understand what you’re signing. The Consumer Protection Act ensures that what you’re signing is “clear, comprehensible, and prominent”. This provides fairness to the average joe who doesn’t have a law degree.
A contract must also list any and all charges, and the business cannot include any further surcharges. If you received a price estimate for a service or product, you’re not required to pay more than 10% above the estimate. Otherwise, you can request that the supplier only charge you what they estimated in the agreement.
With agreements for credit, the lender/supplier must provide a written statement with the details of the credit terms, including the annual interest rate. Non-compliance means that you’re not liable to pay the lender the cost of borrowing under the credit agreement (if no statements were provided) or any amounts higher than the amount specified in the agreement.
Agreement for Future performance
Sections 22 to 26 of the Consumer Protection Act set outs the laws on “Future Performance Agreements” for purchases over $50. A future performance agreement is where the delivery, performance, or payment in full is not made when the parties come into the contract. If you pre-order a stove that will arrive at your house in three months but enter into the agreement to purchase it now, that would be considered a future performance agreement.
Under the Act, the agreement must always be in writing, and a consumer can cancel within one year after entering into the agreement if they don’t receive a copy of it. The consumer can also cancel the agreement if the supplier doesn’t deliver the goods within 30 days after the specified delivery date or doesn’t begin the performance of his/her/its service within 30 days after a specified date. Contracts without a specified delivery date can also be cancelled.
The Consumer Protection Act, as well as other consumer protection laws in Ontario, are powerful tools for everyday people. They protect Ontarians from businesses that may be trying to take advantage of them. The requirement for a cooling-off period, freedom from misrepresentation, disclosure of information, standards for future performance contracts only highlights some of the Act’s characteristics. The Consumer Protection Act also has rules to ensure deliveries are made on time, that remedies are timely, and more. Further, other consumer protection laws in Ontario, such as the Consumer Reporting Act and the Payday Loans Act, similarly put consumers out of harm’s way. We hope that this article has helped explain what consumer protection laws are available in Ontario.